A recent discrimination case against a letting agency has caused concern for landlords and agents who are being urged to do away with “No DSS” policies and treat people fairly based on their individual case.
Rosie Keogh, a single mother opened a discrimination claim in the Birmingham County Court against letting agents Nicholas George, after they refused to proceed with her application for a property in Kings Heath because she is collecting state benefits. Despite the fact that Keogh had paid her rent in full and on time for the last 11 years, she was made to feel like a “second-class citizen” because she relied on housing benefits to cover part of her rent.
It is common to see this blanket policy from landlords and letting agents around the UK. You will often find adverts that state “NO DSS” and a survey of more than 1,000 private landlords in 2017 found that 43% had a ban on letting to DSS tenants and 18% preferred not to let to them. One investigation found that landlords are more comfortable letting to people with pets than to those on benefits.
This blanket policy guarantees people are treated differently and particularly focuses on the case of a single mother with a child who must work part-time to care for her children at home. In 2017, 60% of adults on housing benefits were woman and 54% of households claiming housing benefits were single mothers. Therefore, the policy indirectly discriminates against woman. Furthermore, by applying this blanket policy, they are preventing good tenants from accessing the private rental sector. Private renting is tremendously expensive and even for those with jobs, rent is often unaffordable and the housing benefit funding simply helps people make ends meet.
More than one fifth of rentors are on housing benefit and with the “No DSS” policy, entire towns and cities in the UK have become no-go zones for individuals or households on housing benefits. Since the recent news some landlords are fighting back stating that they would rent to DSS tenants but that their insurance and mortgage agreements do not permit DSS tenants. If this is the case many landlords may be left with no other option but to sell their house quickly either on the open market or through a company who can sell your property fast. If not many Landlords may find themselves in a position of either letting out their property to a DSS Tenant which their mortgage agreement doesn’t allow or face expensive void periods whilst they are waiting to sell.
Thousands of tenants stated that they started falling behind in rent due to the new Universal Credit benefits changes and the National Landlords Association said the recent cuts to benefits has made tenants less reliable in paying rent in time and in full.
Cases like Keogh’s highlight what many renters have to deal with when looking for a property in the private rental sector. With so few people willing to rent to DSS tenants, many people are forced to wait years before relocating, forced into un-ideal locations or unable to find housing. Following Keogh’s case, with the ruling of indirect discrimination, landlords may have to open their properties to tenants on housing benefits.
Landlords who are not willing to rent to someone because they are claiming a benefit, may find themselves with a discrimination case on their hands. The only option will be for landlords to sell their properties or to judge tenant applicants on a case-by-case basis.