Do freelancers have a harder time finding a place to rent?

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We’ve heard of blanket bans on self-employed contractors in the context of IR35. But its not just hirers who have this policy; some landlords and letting agencies are also opting to prohibit freelancers from applying to rent their properties.

Another blanket ban on the self-employed?

This is by no means a new practice. But, in today’s overheating lettings market, requirements for ‘employed applicants only’ and other similar obstacles mean that, when it comes to finding a place to live, freelancers have even slimmer pickings than most.

As reported this week in the Financial Times, a boom in demand for tenancies has seen the cost of annual rents soar nationwide, including increases in excess of 12.5% in Manchester, Glasgow and London – all of which happen to be hubs for self-employment, particularly in the creative industries.

The factors driving this spike in demand for lets are many – but the single, inevitable consequence is ferocious competition among renters for places to live; this also gives landlords licence to be more selective about who they ultimately let a property to.

Naturally, one of the first things a landlord or letting agent wants to check is that a prospective tenant can prove their income. Unfortunately for freelancers, ‘proof of income’ can often be equated with ‘proof of regular employment’.

“Applicants must be in full time employment”

Banning self-employed applicants is towards the extreme end of the difficulties freelancers can face.

Where they can apply, they can be met with requests for self-assessment returns stretching back as far as three years (compared to the typical three months for employees), demands for more rent up front, and provision of a guarantor (who themselves can be subject to requirements – such as not being self-employed!)

These and other additional administrative burdens can mean that, by the time freelancers have gathered and provided the particular evidence an agent wants, the property has already gone – or increased in price due to bidding wars between applicants.

Freelance and renting? Your experience matters to us

IPSE has previously spoken out against the needlessly burdensome and costly hoops the self-employed can be made to jump though when trying to get a mortgage. And, as we said then, we believe the way that someone chooses to work and earn a living should not limit their choices in life – and certainly not to live within a feasible distance of work.

It would seem that the bias against self-employed professionals is based, at least partially, on outdated assumptions – after all, self-employment is not a niche occupation and hasn’t been for quite some time; it is a large, and growing, sector of the economy numbering 4.3 million people, more than half of whom have worked in this way for over a decade – that’s longer than this employee has even been in the workforce.

If the experience of bias against the self-employed in the rental market resonates with you, we’re eager to hear your story – share it with us by completing the form below.


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Meet the author

Fred Hicks

Senior Policy and Communications Adviser