Recent findings have highlighted a concerning trend among landlords who are increasingly forbidding tenants from working from home (WFH).

This practice, which has sparked widespread debate and calls for legislative action, has been scrutinised for its legality and fairness, particularly in a post-COVID world where remote and hybrid work arrangements have become more common.

Numerous rental adverts are now specifying that prospective tenants cannot work from home. The legality of such a practice is complex. While some landlords argue that these restrictions are justified by factors such as increased utility usage or internet bandwidth, legal experts point out that landlords generally cannot prevent tenants from working from home unless it involves running a business from the rental property.

Tenant Backlash

This issue has not gone unnoticed by tenants and advocacy groups. Generation Rent, a charity focused on renters’ rights, has called on the government to introduce regulations to curb this practice. They argue that such restrictions, combined with the powers of Section 21 “no-fault” evictions, put tenants at an unfair disadvantage, potentially leading to homelessness for those who cannot comply with these terms.

Social Media Outcry

A viral post on Twitter/X exemplified the public’s reaction to this trend. The post showed a rental listing for a £1,300-per-month room that included a desk but prohibited working from home. The post, viewed over four million times, ignited a heated debate about the fairness and legality of such restrictions, especially given the rising cost of living and the increased reliance on remote work.

Impact on Tenants

For many tenants, especially those with disabilities or in fully remote roles, these restrictions are more than just inconvenient—they are life-altering. A disabled worker interviewed by The Independent explained that being unable to work from home could result in losing both housing and employment, a situation that should not be imposed by landlords.

Market Response

Rental websites like Spareroom have seen a rise in adverts specifying “no WFH” conditions, particularly from live-in landlords. These adverts often list various justifications, such as the unsuitability of the space, increased bills, or additional strain on internet services. While some landlords argue that these restrictions are reflected in lower rent prices, tenants and advocates argue that such terms are unreasonable and exacerbate housing insecurity.

Calls for Reform

Experts and advocacy groups are calling for reform to protect tenants’ rights to work from home. Ben Twomey, Chief Executive of Generation Rent, emphasises that what tenants do in their homes should not be the business of landlords, provided it does not disrupt the property or other tenants. He advocates for the abolition of Section 21 evictions and the implementation of clearer regulations to prevent landlords from imposing unfair terms.

As remote work continues to be a significant aspect of modern employment, the debate over tenants’ rights to work from home is likely to intensify. Advocacy groups and tenants are urging for legislative changes to ensure that renting remains a viable and fair option in a landscape increasingly dominated by remote work.

What does the future look like?

Kate Palmer, Employment Services Director at Peninsula, says, “For some businesses, the days of having a physical base are gone because all their employees work from home. For other businesses, remote working may be something that they will need to consider more about in the future. This is because one of the pledges that the new government has made is that they plan to make flexible working the default from day one for all workers, except where it is not reasonably feasible. Remote working usually equates to working from home. However, if an employee is prevented from working from home because their landlord has banned them from doing so, then this could cause issues. How an employer chooses to handle the situation will likely depend on the circumstances. Much will turn on the type of work that the individual carries out and whether alternatives could be considered. Could the employee reasonably work out of an alternative location like a shared space, coffee shop, or bar?

“This could be a non-starter for some roles, where concerns over confidentiality may mean that working where others outside of the organisation can hear and see them poses a risk to the business. There could also be concerns that working out of an environment where there are distractions is not conducive to maintaining productivity. But it will be for employers to fully consider based on the specific situation.

“One thing is for sure, this is a subject that’s guaranteed to continue generating conversation and headlines in the months to come, and one that employers cannot ignore.”

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.