Property Ombudsman Central Housing Group

Agents breaking ‘No DSS’ listings rule will face sanctions, warns Zoopla

The debate over rental properties listed on portals with ‘No DSS’ statements has reignited over the weekend.

This follows a BBC investigation into the issue; this was aimed primarily at landlord-only websites such as SpareRoom and OpenRent, where the probe found as many as 80 per cent of listings carrying some form of overt anti-benefits statement.

However, the BBC also found that there were some ‘No DSS’ statements on properties listed on Rightmove and Zoopla – although far, far fewer than on the landlord sites.
Of 335,000 rental listings analysed by the BBC on Zoopla and Rightmove, fewer than one per cent – 3,350 – contained anti-benefit comments. It is possible that some of these may contravene a court ruling in the summer which determined that blanket bans on benefit claimants contravened the 2010 Equality Act.

Now Zoopla has responded to this, issuing a statement to Letting Agent Today over the weekend. It says: “Zoopla was proud to work closely with Shelter on this issue, becoming the first portal to ban ‘No DSS’ and similar language in listings and inspiring the wider industry to follow our lead.

“While we are happy that the BBC’s research showed over 99 per cent of our listings are compliant we recognise even one listing with discriminatory wording is too much. We are constantly updating our systems to ensure any attempts by agents to circumvent our rules are caught and, while we have made strong progress on this, the process is ongoing.

“Any agent we do find attempting to breach our rules on this can face a variety of sanctions including the removal of their ability to list properties on our site.”

The BBC analysed 59,000 lettings listings on SpareRoom and OpenRent.

“Both platforms currently offer landlords a tick-box option to exclude people on benefits, although SpareRoom plans to remove the option” says the corporation.

OpenRent founder Adam Hyslop told the corporation: “We know that access to suitable properties for benefit claimants is a real and painful problem, and we want to solve the root causes of these issues.

“We’ve raised these issues in Parliament and with industry lobby groups and are working hard to address the root causes – as well as trying to combat prejudice by educating OpenRent users.

“OpenRent does not ban any group of tenants, and in the past year we have let over 25,000 properties where applications from benefit claimants were explicitly welcomed by the landlord.”

And SpareRoom director Matt Hutchinson says: “After the July ruling we changed the way SpareRoom works, so landlords can only list rooms as unavailable to benefit claimants if their mortgage or insurance specifically forbid it. However, we’ve seen far more rooms still being listed as unavailable than the small number we expected.

“The reality is that there are almost no buy to let mortgages left with those clauses in them, so we’re currently in the process of removing the option to list as unavailable to benefit claimants completely.”

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