As students prepare to start or return to university, research by StudentTenant.com recently found that 38 per cent of students suffered discrimination by the landlord when searching for accommodation, with discrimination being suffered on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, and/or religious beliefs.
21 per cent, that is over 1 in 5, alleged that they had been discriminated against because of their gender. Predominantly, this affected male students who are perceived as being messier, noisier, and more likely to cause damage. Whether landlords who take female tenants would agree with this view is questionable. The heavy drinking associated with student life is by no means as prevalent as it was, nor is it confined to the male of the species.
Are female students much better behaved? Perhaps some are, though I know of one female student who, offering a friend a cup of coffee, used milk from the cat’s bowl! Females can also be more demanding if they are fastidious – demanding new mattresses, wrongly believing that this is a legal requirement.
Some decisions, which could be seen as discriminatory, are actually made for very good reasons, and may be based on a landlord’s personal experience. Mixed genders can work very well, until Cupid rears his disruptive head. A romance between 2 house-sharers can cause stresses and tensions unknown previously.
When a relationship breaks down, more issues arise. Can they continue to live in the same house? It is more likely one of them will choose to leave; replacing a tenant mid-academic term is tricky, so again, a very good reason to avoid the situation, if possible. The same could apply with same-sex couples, but that is not the obvious problem-area that male/female couples pose. This may not, therefore, necessarily be discrimination, though a student denied a room/property based on gender is not likely to appreciate that.
More troubling is the fact that a quarter, 1 in 4 students, felt they had been discriminated against on grounds of their ethnicity. One student applied for a flat, having seen it advertised with the rent which he found affordable. When he met the landlord and the student’s ethnic origin was apparent, the rent suddenly trebled. This cannot be anything but racial discrimination and should be reported to the Police, any agent involved and the University Accommodation Officer. However, most landlords do not provide such clear proof of this, which makes taking any action against them very difficult.
8 per cent also allege that they were discriminated against because of their religion. Though no statistics are provided about which religion(s) are discriminated against, this is also unacceptable discrimination. No faith system should put a landlord’s property at risk, unless it is being used for illegal activity. But this cannot be ascertained from an interview for a vacant place in a student house.
It is hard enough for students, surviving on student loans, perhaps on their own for the first time, to find suitable accommodation. 22 per cent of students, over 1 in 5, have felt they were discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, or religion. Some of the cases may not be justifiably called discrimination, but clearly a lot of the cases investigated were. Sadly, the tenants involved tend to be the most vulnerable. Fighting the discrimination for them, may not be an option.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon