Over 90 per cent of Welwyn Hatfield landlords ‘unlawful and discriminatory’ to refuse housing benefit

PUBLISHED: 09:52 28 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:52 28 August 2020

A court case decided last month that not accepting housing benefit was unlawful. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A court case decided last month that not accepting housing benefit was unlawful. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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According to data revealed today housing benefit is refused by over 90 per cent of landlords, a practice which has been ruled “unlawful and discriminatory”.

A recent No DSS ad in Welwyn Garden City near Peartree. Picture: Openrent/screenshotA recent No DSS ad in Welwyn Garden City near Peartree. Picture: Openrent/screenshot

In July, a judge ruled that blanket bans on renting properties to people saying “No DSS” (Department for Social Security) rental bans were against equality laws.

The DSS was replaced in 2001 by the Department for Work and Pensions, and is used as a shorthand reference to mean benefits claimants.

After that court case, the BBC Shared Data Unit took a snapshot and analysed more than 9,000 rental listings on the website OpenRent and found 76 per cent preferred not to rent to people on benefits.

In Welwyn Hatfield, 92 per cent of landlords said they did not accept DSS, while only 65 per cent refused in Hertsmere. However, 64 per cent of Welwyn Hatfield listings did accept students and more – 12.8 per cent – accepted pets than benefit claimants.

Ruth Camp, supervising solicitor of the Shelter Court Desk Volunteer Scheme run in conjunction with Hertfordshire Law Clinic, based at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “The courts have now given a clear warning to landlords and letting agents that they risk legal action if they continue to prevent housing benefit tenants from renting.

“This is great news for renters who are reliant on housing benefits for their rent but unable to access accommodation otherwise available to them,” the Shelter housing solicitor added.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, highlights this is not often the fault of landlords but letting agents. She explained that the housing charity’s research shows the main reason landlords don’t rent to housing benefit tenants is because they were advised not to by their letting agent.

“‘No DSS’ discrimination is outdated, grossly unfair – and it’s unlawful under the Equality Act This is because it overwhelmingly prevents women and disabled people, who are more likely to need support paying their rent, from finding a safe home.

“Last month’s ruling should be a wake-up call for landlords and letting agents to clean up their act and treat all renters equally.

“We won’t stop fighting DSS discrimination until it’s banished for good. OpenRent should ban landlords from advertising their properties as ‘DSS not accepted’ – and remind them of their legal duty not to discriminate. Otherwise, they are putting themselves and their landlords at risk of serious legal action.”

The National Residential Landlords Association’s deputy director for policy and research John Stewart said it had “always advised landlords they should not blanket ban benefit claimants” but the “fundamental issue was the affordability of renting”.

Adam Hyslop, founder at OpenRent, disagreed with the calculations done by the BBC and added: “We strongly advise landlords to assess each applicant on their own merits, and it is the landlord who ultimately decides who to let to.”

If you need legal advice on housing and employment, you can contact the Uni of Herts Law Clinic here probono@herts.ac.uk or find out more information here herts.ac.uk/study/schools-of-study/law/hertfordshire-law-clinic.


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