Imposing blanket bans on tenants in receipt of housing benefit in the property rental market has been judged as unlawful, discriminatory and against equality laws after housing charity Shelter took on a case which went to court. The charity’s “End DSS Discrimination” campaign was specifically set-up to help stop the practice, which excludes thousands of potential tenants from renting homes each year.
There are just under 900,000 people in England currently receiving housing benefits to help pay their rent, yet according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government around half of the landlords asked would not be willing to let to them, whilst a survey for Shelter, conducted by YouGov in December 2019 and January 2020, found that nearly two-thirds of private landlords prefer not to let their property to people on housing benefits.
Research shows that discrimination against people on housing benefit is both widespread and blatant. In November 2018, both The National Housing Federation and Shelter examined 86,000 online adverts for rental properties and found that 8,710 of them requested “No DSS” applications. Last year Zoopla the property rental website vowed to end housing benefit discrimination, prohibiting landlords from posting “No DSS” ads on their website.
BBC News reports that Shelter had taken on “No DSS” ban cases in the past, but that these cases had always been settled before the courts had heard them in full. However, the recent court ruling, which has been deemed “momentous” and “the nail in the coffin for ‘No DSS’ discrimination”, was based on the case of a single mother of two that ended up homeless due to facing indirect discrimination from a letting agent which refused to rent a property to her despite the fact she had always paid her rent on time, had excellent references from both landlords from the previous nine years, had a professional guarantor and offered to pay up to 6 months rent in advance. The letting agent in the case has not been named.
The judge said that “Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of sex and disability. And this was, therefore, contrary to the Equality Act 2010”. The ruling of indirect discrimination is brought about due to the fact that female single parents and disabled claimants are much more likely to be in receipt of housing benefit and so are disproportionately affected by “No DSS” bans when renting property.
The message that is being sent to both landlords and letting agents from this ruling is a clear one. They must not discriminate against potential future tenants simply because they receive housing benefits but should consider prospective tenants on a case by case basis, basing their decisions on the prospective tenant’s ability to maintain the tenancy agreement. This will offer more security to people who unfairly struggle to find a place to live just because they receive housing benefits. This ruling finally clarifies that discriminating against people in need of housing benefits is against the law.
At Ashburnham Insurance, we understand that protecting your property is a major priority for landlords. Which is why we provide flexible, comprehensive landlord insurance for landlords renting their property to DSS tenants. Talk to an expert now for more advice on FREEPHONE 0800 1696137.