Call to end "discrimination" against Tenants with Children

14 Feb 2018

It is commonplace to see the words "no children" on advertisements for rental accommodation in Jersey, but does this constitute age discrimination?

The practice of restricting the availability of housing to tenants with children could soon be outlawed under new proposals before the States of Jersey.

Some traditional objections from landlords are that children can cause damage, make excessive noise which could disturb neighbours or the property is unsuitable for children, but such objections could become unlawful on the grounds of age discrimination.

On 20 February 2018, the States will debate a proposal from Deputy Tadier that the Minister for Housing, in consultation with the Minister for Home Affairs, should bring forward legislation to prevent discrimination against prospective tenants who are living with a child under the age of 18 years.

A change in the law would be welcomed by many families on the Island who have struggled to find suitable accommodation. However, such a change in the law would have far-reaching consequences for landlords.

This week, the UK Labour party has shone a spotlight on the issue of tenants' rights by calling for the restrictions on tenants keeping pets to be lifted. With the growth of "generation rent" there is an increasing call for more flexible letting terms; the upcoming debate could be viewed in that context.

At present, the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013 includes a carve-out whereby an act of discrimination on the grounds of age is permitted with regards to premises.

Deputy Tadier argues that the presumed intention of this carve-out was to maintain the ability of categories of housing (such as over-45s, over-55s and sheltered accommodation) to be maintained. However, Deputy Tadier claims that the carve-out was never intended to be used to discriminate against children and families.

Jeff O'Boyle of Bedell Cristin's Property team has warned landlords to be aware of the consequences of such a change in the law.

"Landlords and letting agents should follow this story very carefully because the proposed change in the law would be a game-changer for the rental market. If the States decide that tenants with children are being discriminated against, landlords will need to set out clear, justifiable grounds when refusing to let property to tenants with children. Any hint of ambiguity in their reasoning may be challengeable on the grounds of discrimination."