Sunday, 2 September 2012

Not Suitable For Children

This story is hitting me from all angles: in search terms, emails, friends, and the experiences of fellow bloggers. Quite simply, private landlords will not let to people with kids, be they couples or single parents.

They don’t say so in the property ads of course, but shockingly, they could stress: ‘No kids’ without sanction. Nobody cares: it is discrimination, but not illegal.

One correspondent relocated to the UK and started flat-hunting. They were staying for about a year as mature post-grad students. They had money in the form of state funding, excellent references and (when problems in securing a house became clear) would pay six months rent upfront. Only trouble was, they would become proud parents about four months after moving in.

He’s Canadian, and didn’t say whether this would be tolerated in the USA, but he did seem astounded. They were after a two bed flat, and sound like dream tenants. Why not let them move in? I never heard whether they found anywhere.

Elsewhere, my blogging friend My Shitty Twenties is trying to find a new home, closer to her friends, family, hopefully with a garden for her cherubic son ‘Tom’. Suddenly the landlord suddenly decided she didn’t want a school age child in the house (Tom is 6). Their decision came after she had paid a holding fee and the actual deposit, so the letting agent didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. Coincidentally, just after she had viewed her perfect house, a childless couple pulled up outside.

Another potential tenant is a single parent, but her landlord rejected her after some intrusive question, assuming she would be on benefits (she isn’t.)

Really young children can be mischievous, but their misdemeanours usually involve tiny trikes bumping into skirting, or some drawing on the walls (mostly washable now, or covered with a coat of emulsion.)

Social housing is a fleeting, disappearing dream. All tenants will rely on the private sector, including, or rather especially, families with children. Rented houses are often inadequate, and anyway, it’s much more lucrative to let a house as an HMO, as landlords can ‘maximise profit’ cramming in more renters, using the lounge as another bedroom (kind landlords don’t) or rent to a couple.

Blinkered, prejudiced rentiers believe all single parents are scroungers, claiming benefits when really they are in full time, possibly well-paid, work. They assume that couples will not be signing on, as one of them will always be in full employment, when in this climate, that is not the case.

Private landlords must now fulfil a social role, when they are accustomed to exercising whimsical prejudices and capricious choices with impunity. Their word is law. Families can be given notice every six months, with children settled in good local schools (there might be no places if they are compelled to move) or just secure and happy.

It’s the opposite of the odious child-catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang. Landlords do not gather children, the push them away.
The private sector is not family friendly. It just isn’t.


Rob said...

If this is true, I find it pretty mystifying. Surely any excess wear and tear would be more than balanced out by the fact that families with school-age kids are likely to stay longer - meaning fewer voids and less hassle.

RenterGirl said...

It is true. And yes - you'd think. Landlords have a bizarre and set idea of what makes an ideal tenant. Usually between 25 and 35 (not older, really) and in long term, well paid permanent employment, able bodied and often: white. It's done with a wink and a nod, and the only time discrimination is overt, it's because landlords won't allow kids.

Anonymous said...

Not allowing pets is also overt, isn't it?

RenterGirl said...

Yes - but not allowing pets is more complex. If it's the once and future home of someone with an allergy, then state the facts upfront. Don't sneak cats in. and clean up properly (hairs everywhere - and I love dogs!)

space cadet said...

I don't know about "white" though Penny; many Asian landlords that want an Asian tenant, for example. Discrimination has to be legislated against if we are to stop this arbitrary cherry picking, it's obscene.

Jill said...

You mentioned in passing that you don't know whether it's illegal to refuse to rent to people with children (or expecting to have children) in the USA: yes, it is.

That law was added in 1988 to the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The law allows an exception for retirement communities where mostly older people live -- the details are boring but easy to look up with google.

Slightly off-topic: as an American living for a long time in England I find that one of the most common misconceptions about my country of birth is the assumption that law is mostly uniform across the USA. Actually most law is state and local law, which is why lawyers have to pass the bar exam in each state where they want to practice. But this law is Federal, so it actually does apply all the states.

It's complicated, but arguably simpler than the arcane and exception-filled tangles of history that are the jurisdictions of law among the four nations of the UK. :)