Landlords who refuse to take on tenants claiming benefits could be breaking the law, following a recent legal case.

However, the government has recently announced forthcoming changes to the universal credit system in April, aimed at stopping landlords losing out through late rent payments and arrears.

Single mother Rosie Keogh successfully argued that blanket bans on benefit claimants indirectly discriminated against women, especially single women.

This is because they are proportionately more likely to be claiming housing benefit than single men, according to official figures.

Her bid to rent a property in Birmingham in May 2016 was blocked when the lettings agent found she would pay some of the rent via housing benefit, even though she had been living in the same property for 11 years with the rent being paid in full every time.

A survey of 1,137 private landlords for housing charity Shelter in 2017 found that 43 per cent had an outright ban on letting to such claimants, while a further 18 preferred not to let to them.

The lettings agent admitted indirect discrimination on the grounds of her sex, settling out of court with £2,000 compensation.

Although not setting a legally binding precedent, the case established that the practice could be considered indirect sexual discrimination.

A government spokesman said: "It's wrong to treat someone differently because they are claiming a benefit.

"The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money but we are increasing support to help people who need it to stay on top of their payments."

He added that from April, people in receipt of housing benefit would receive two weeks' rent when they moved on to universal credit and landlords could now apply to have the benefit paid directly to them if their tenants were more than two months in arrears.

Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association, said the number of landlords willing to rent to housing benefit tenants had fallen because cuts to welfare and problems with the universal credit system make it increasingly difficult for claimants to pay their rent on time.