I got rung up by a journalist from the BBC the other day (it happens sometimes) who said something along the lines of
We are doing a feature on discrimination and zero hours contracts and we wondered if this was something you could comment on?
At first I had no idea what he was talking about. Having been self employed for many years, I was happily unaware of the phenomena of zero hours employment contacts and I thought he was referring to some sort of tenancy agreement!
As a title for a tenancy agreement, zero hours seemed a bit self contradictory …
However once we had sorted that out, I could tell that I was not going to be able to help him. He obviously wanted me to say that discrimination against potential tenants on zero hours contracts was against the law.
But it isn’t.
Discrimination – the law
Landlords are of course subject to discrimination laws. These though are the standard discrimination laws that apply everywhere, such as:
- Sex and sexual orientation
However a landlord must be able to have some freedom over who he accepts as a tenant. And the employment status of the tenant is a key issue.
Why a tenant’s employment is important
It is from his salary that a tenant will (in most cases) pay his rent. So if there is any issue regarding this, it is obviously something the landlord will, and indeed should, take into account.
Most landlords are not millionaires and will almost inevitably have expenses they have to pay in respect of the property.
The biggest will be their ‘buy to let’ mortgage repayments. However there will invariably be other expenses too, such as ground rent and service charges for flats, maintenance expenses, Council tax if it is an HMO, insurance etc.
So it is pretty dangerous to take in a tenant whose employment contract does not guarantee him any income as you could end up seriously out of pocket.
Particularly when you bear in mind that it takes up to six months or more to evict a tenant (for example for non payment of rent) and during all that time the landlord will still have to pay his expenses on the property.
I have known landlords lose thousands of pounds when tenants don’t pay rent. So when choosing a tenant their potential ability to pay their rent is crucial.
And yet …
I can see where the BBC man was coming from. But I don’t think it is the landlords they should demonise. It’s the employers.
But I don’t do employment law so that is an issue for someone else to write about!