Historic Ruling Forces Agents/Landlords To Stop Discrimination Of DSS Tenants

On Wednesday July 1st a virtual hearing took place at York County Court which ended with the historic ruling whereby agents and landlords, in the private rented sector, cannot discriminate against any tenants receiving housing benefits.

The Court decided that the banning of DSS recipients who need welfare benefits to live, cannot be discriminated against when renting or applying to rent ‘homes’ as it breaches the Equality Act.

The landmark ruling has been brought about by the housing charity Shelter who has been continually campaigning against landlords and agent using ‘No DSS’ clauses in accepting applications from prospective tenants.

District Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark said: “Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability, contrary to […] the Equality Act 2010.”

The case was brought against a letting agent by Shelter’s strategic litigation team as its ‘policy’ specifically stated it would not let any of their properties to a single mother of two, because she was on housing benefits.

Shelter claims that 63% of private landlords will not take on, or prefer not to let to people who are on benefits.

The tenant, named as Jane to protect her privacy, says: “I was shocked and found it very unfair that they wouldn’t even give me a chance.

“I had excellent references from both my landlords of the last nine years as I’ve always paid my rent on time and I had a professional guarantor.

“I could pay up to six months’ rent in advance if they wanted it because my parents lent me the amount, which I then paid back to them monthly. “But when the letting agent wouldn’t take me because of a company policy, I felt very offended that after all those years, when I have prided myself on paying my rent, paying my bills, being a good tenant, it just meant nothing.

“When I realised we were going to be homeless because I couldn’t find anywhere, I felt sick to my stomach.”

Rose Arnall, the Shelter solicitor who led the case, says: “This is the first time a court has fully considered a case like this.

“It finally clarifies that discriminating against people in need of housing benefit is not just morally wrong, it is against the law.

“Shelter has been fighting ‘No DSS’ for nearly two years, and this win in the courts is what’s needed to end these discriminatory practices for good.

“This sends a huge signal to letting agents and landlords that they must end these practices and do so immediately.”

A spokesperson for an industry association said: “No landlord should discriminate against tenants because they are in receipt of benefits.

“Every tenant’s circumstance is different and so they should be treated on a case by case basis based on their ability to sustain a tenancy.

“More broadly, the government can also support this work by ensuring benefits cover rents entirely. It should also convert the loans to cover the five week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit into grants.”

The case was also supported by the Nationwide Foundation, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and barrister Tessa Buchanan at Garden Court Chambers.

Richard Merrick of PIMS, said: “The Work and Pensions Select Committee has already threatened to pass legislation stopping lenders from inserting clauses into BTL mortgage agreements, that they would not allow the properties to be let out to tenants on housing benefits.

“Sadly, because of the times, many people through no fault of their own, will have to apply or already have applied for welfare benefits, but will still need to rent a home.”

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