“No DSS” and “Working professionals only” are phrases that are commonly seen in “to-let” adverts. They are also one of the most obvious discriminatory practices, currently being used in the lettings market, against people in receipt of housing and other types of benefits.
The range of properties on the housing market that tenants who receive benefits can afford to rent is limited due to cuts to benefits, and also because of problems with how the benefits system currently works.
No DSS bans are unlawful and can make it difficult for tenants that are in receipt of benefits to find a home, even in situations that they can afford the rent. DSS tenants say that these type of bans often make them feel as though they are second-class citizens and some can even become homeless as a result of these types of bans.
Is it unlawful to discriminate against DSS tenants?
You cannot refuse to rent a property to a DSS tenant without considering their entire circumstances. The Equality Act 2010 made it unlawful to discriminate against anyone because of a ‘protected characteristic’ when renting out a property.
Protected characteristics include things such as:
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
As an example, a disabled person is more likely to be claiming housing benefit and so is more likely to lose out to someone who is not, this is called “indirect discrimination”.
Can you refuse to rent to those who cannot afford it?
By law, you can refuse to rent your property to a tenant if it is clear that they cannot afford the rent payments. However, you must consider each applicant and their circumstances individually, without simply assuming that they cannot afford it.
Housing benefit may not cover the entire rent payment, but a tenant may still be able to pay the rent due to savings or with some help from their family.
What if you do not want tenants receiving DSS?
If you do not wish to rent your property to a person receiving DSS, this is still classed as unlawful discrimination. “No DSS” bans discourage people who receive these type of benefits from being able to register an interest in your property, which means that you will be unable to consider their individual circumstances.
Using this kind of discriminatory language in your rental advertisement puts landlords at risk of legal action.
Consider each person’s individual circumstances
You should always consider each application based on individual circumstances. Do not reject a rental application for your property simply because they receive benefits. By looking at a DSS applicant’s circumstances, you may discover that they can afford to pay the full rent in advance until their benefit payments start.
Some insurers consider housing benefit claimants a higher risk than working professionals, due to their financial vulnerability and dependence on government support. Some landlords even claim that they cannot accept tenants in receipt of DSS because of a condition in their insurance policy. However, it is completely possible for landlords to get suitable buildings and contents insurance if they wish to let their properties to tenants in receipt of benefits.
Ashburnham Insurance is a specialist provider of Landlord Insurance for DSS tenants which protects landlords from potential risks that are usually associated with renting out a property to those claiming benefits. CALL FREE ON 0800 1696137 to find out more.