Pride month is nearly at an end, but that doesn’t mean that issues affecting LGBTQ+ people will suddenly disappear. Discrimination, both explicit and structural, remains an unfortunate reality for non-heterosexual, trans and non-binary people in every facet of day-to-day life.
akt, the LGBTQ+ homelessness charity, and Generation Rent have teamed up to research and investigate the experiences of LGBTQ+ private renters to better understand the issues they face in the market. We believe that everyone should have access to a safe, secure, and affordable home, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Between January and June 2022, we ran a survey to investigate discrimination within the private rental market which received 254 responses. While this should in no way be used to make sweeping generalisations about the experiences of LGBTQ+ private renters, it does offer a glimpse of what it is like to navigate the private rental sector as a member of the community.
Respondents (be they LGBTQ+ or otherwise) struggled with poor housing conditions, landlord and letting agent responsiveness, especially regarding repairs, and insecurity. However, there were disparities in the data.
- LGBTQ+ respondents were 48% more likely to have lived in unsuitable housing
Worryingly, 43% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that they had been forced to live in unsuitable accommodation, compared with 29% of non-LGBTQ+ participants
- LGBTQ+ respondents were 9% more likely to have previously had to temporarily stay with friends, family or partners
Insecurity and accessibility to affordable homes in the private rental market was also an Issue. A shocking 33% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents reported that they have previously had to temporarily stay with friends, family or partners, but this rose to 39% of LGBTQ+ respondents.
- LGBTQ+ respondents were 19% more likely to have struggled with repairs and 17% more likely to have experienced damp and mould
Repairs and housing standards also disproportionately affected LGBTQ+ respondents. 70% of LGBTQ+ reported that they had struggled with repairs compared to 59% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents. Meanwhile 61% LGBTQ+ people had experienced damp or mould compared to 52% of non-LGBTQ+ people.
Unresponsive landlords and letting agents, recurring maintenance issues and poor repair work were cited time and again by LGBTQ+ respondents as issues they had faced as private renters.
One respondent said: “I've lived in multiple properties, with mould/damp/disrepair. Worst experience with that was ending up with no functioning washing facilities - no hot water, no working shower.”
Participants often recounted difficulties in communicating with their landlords when in same-sex relationships.
One respondent said: “Current landlord refused to provide a tenancy agreement upon moving in or repair any of the various issues in the property, and then gave eviction notice without dates, then refused to acknowledge or respond to any communications from same-sex partner and co-tenant.”
Other respondents said: “The communication with the landlord went from bad to non-existent as soon as I identified myself (incoming tenant and partner of existing tenant) as same sex - she just hasn't responded to any communication from me.”
“A potential landlord stopped communicating with me upon finding out I'm a woman in a relationship with another woman.”
Explicit discrimination was reported by LGBTQ+ private renters
As well as clear structural issues for LGBTQ+ private renters, explicit discrimination was also reported by numerous participants. 19% of LGBTQ+ respondents stated that they had felt discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Overall, 7% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that they felt discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.
One participant explained: “When searching for houses with my partner, houses seemed to disappear very quickly 'because of another renter' but then remain on the market.”
13% of LGBTQ+ respondents said they had felt discriminated against by a landlord or letting agent because of their gender identity, with this rising to 25% of trans respondents.
One respondent discussed their experiences while navigating the private rental market. “I was made aware by several potential landlords that they were uncomfortable because of being unsure of my gender and when I clarified, they repeatedly misgendered me on one visit, or spoke only to my cisgender housemates in another.”
Another respondent explained: “It's hard to quantify, but I found that if I was open about my gender identity before moving in, then suddenly the process would go from going well to downhill and I would be denied flats.”
And a third participant said: “I would have to hear remarks that were filled with transphobic undertones and didn't feel safe being my full self in the home.”
An insecure private rental market enables discriminatory behaviour
Meanwhile, the survey offered indications that the insecurity of the private rental market enables discriminatory behaviour. One participant said: “When I was kicked out by my live-in landlord, I am sure the tension around my gender identity was a part of the factors leading to me being asked to leave.”
Very clearly, the private rental market is fraught with problems for everyone. Simply because a tenant is heterosexual or cisgender does not mean that they are immune from experiencing poor conditions, harassment, insecurity, or any of the other challenges mentioned here. However, in a market which places so much power in the hands of landlords, LGBTQ+ will remain vulnerable to explicit and structural forms of discrimination.
Jo Bhandal, Campaigns, Policy and Research Lead at akt, said: “Most people do not have to worry about whether they will be subjected to homophobic or transphobic abuse by housemates when renting a room. They will also not have to worry about whether their landlord or a letting agent will treat them differently because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“These findings point to some of the realities of what it can be like to be a private renter and LGBTQ+. They show that we have a long way to go to ensuring that all LGBTQ+ people are able to access safe, secure, affordable and decent housing. No one should have to choose between a safe home and being who they are.”
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is against the law for a landlord or letting agent to treat anyone unfairly or differently because of your gender orientation or sexual identity, as well as your race, disability, religion or beliefs or whether you are pregnant.
If you believe you have been discriminated against on any of these grounds, you can find out what to do next at Citizens Advice.
In June 2022, the Government published their long-awaited White Paper on rental reform. Within in it, they outlined legislation which (among other things) would end Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, bring in a landlord portal to boost regulation in the market, and introduce more flexible and secure tenancies for renters. All these changes are important steps in rebalancing the market and bringing about a fairer deal for tenants.
However, marginalised voices need to remain part of the conversation, over the course of these reforms being put into law and beyond. So, if you are a LGBTQ+ private renter, or have faced other forms of discrimination in the market, please tell us your story here.