A couple have claimed their landlord kicked them out of their home because they had a BABY.
Catherine and Alex Phipps welcomed their boy, Ellis, into the world last August, only to be told nine days later that they would have to find somewhere else to live.
The landlord did not want them living in their property because of a ‘bad experience’ with previous tenants who had a baby.
Mrs Phipps, 31, said she was told by the landlords the previous situation resulted in them having to pay tens of thousands of pounds to refurbish the property.
Mrs Phipps, mother of five-month-old Ellis, said: “The reason why they wanted us out was totally wrong.
“What made everything worse was that I had problems with healing after the birth and had to keep going back and forth to the [hospital].
“It was a really difficult time for us and moving was not only stressful but physically draining for me.”
The couple, from Oxford, who both work for publishing companies, were not told in their tenancy agreement that they could not have children living in the home.
The agreement stated that two children under the age of 18 were permitted to live in the property.
It was this reason why the couple did not tell the letting agent about the birth of their baby, as they did not think it would be a problem.
But when Andrews, their letting agent, did a regular inspection when Mrs Phipps was 37 weeks through her pregnancy, they found out about the expected baby and informed the landlord.
Mrs Phipps said: “We never spoke directly to the landlady, but our letting agent let her know and she apparently ‘freaked out’ at the news. We were told nine days after Ellis was born that we had to move out.”
They say they landlord ended the tenancy by enforcing the break clause in the agreement which allows a tenancy to come to an end before the original end date stated which would have been June 2019.
The Phipps had the choice to either break their contract earlier than the break clause and be released from their obligations under the agreement with no penalty, or stay in the property until the break clause was enforced in February.
Mrs Phipps hoped that her landlord would change their minds but as time went by, she knew they would not be allowed to stay.
She said: “By keeping the house tidy I thought we could show the letting agent when they did their inspections that we were good tenants and wouldn’t cause any damage. I was hoping we could stay.
“But I got the impression that that wasn’t going to happen.
“In the end we decided that we didn’t want to be forced out of our home so we decided it would be best to look for somewhere else to live.”
Andrews acted as a messenger between the two parties and had to break the bad news to the couple just nine days after their baby boy was born.
It informed The Oxford Mail that the landlord is no longer a client.
The letting agent was, however, instrumental in helping the couple find a new home in Headington.
The new mother said: “We’ve tried to look at the positives and, in a way, it’s turned out for the best because Andrews helped us to find a lovely new home that is a lot more baby-friendly.”
After seeking legal advice, the couple were told that the law on indirect discrimination is complex and there are exemptions for small properties.
They were also told that Article 8 of The Human Rights Act 1998 – the right to respect for private and family life – does not apply to privately contracting individuals but only applies to public bodies such as housing associations or local authorities such as the council.
Mrs Phipps said: “It’s disappointing that there wasn’t more that we could do as tenants. You’re particularly vulnerable after having a baby, and with little retribution for their actions, landlords can exploit this vulnerability.”
Her husband, Mr Phipps, also 31, said: “It’s disappointing that there isn’t better regulation of the rental market around these issues. This could have hit someone else much harder than us who could be in a worse position than us.
“It is affecting vulnerable people and going unnoticed. Having a baby is a normal family event and we feel like we have been penalised for this.’