Oxford council has become the first in the UK to move against landlords and letting agents who discriminate against tenant applicants in receipt of benefits via ‘No DSS’ ads.
In a report published and proposed by a councillor, the cross-party motion accuses some local landlords and letting agents of overt discrimination via ‘No DSS’ messages on websites.
The report also says that ‘covert’ discrimination is involved as well.
“More often, landlords and letting agents covertly discriminate against benefits claimants by using affordability or referencing checks that automatically fail benefit recipients, by systematically favouring non-benefit claimants when assessing tenancy applications, by demanding guarantors when a prospective tenant’s income – be it from benefits or employment – is sufficient,” it says.
Oxford council also says that despite alleviating measures such as the council tax reduction scheme, people are struggling financially.
“More people rely on benefits due to the pandemic, so the effects of DSS discrimination are now particularly widespread,” it says.
Its members have committed to prevent such discrimination with the city through several measures, the most important of which is via its selective licensing scheme.
This will include new working within its paperwork that will says: “You must not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, race, language, sexuality or any other factor that might place an individual at a disadvantage.
“This includes indirect discrimination… against those in receipt of Department of DWP benefits, referencing the previous initials (DSS) of the department…such as ‘no DSS’ or related practices, namely refusing to let prospective tenants on housing benefit or Universal Credit view affordable properties and requiring guarantors in cases where a prospective tenant’s income is sufficient’.
Green Party Councillor Chris Jarvis, who is also a member of the city’s Acorn tenant representation organisation, says: “It’s incredibly welcome that Oxford’s Councillors have put aside political differences to take a clear stance in opposition to housing discrimination against residents in the city on universal credit or housing benefit. For too long, some landlords and letting agents have been acting with impunity – despite DSS discrimination having been ruled unlawful in 2020.
“We all know that housing in Oxford is only becoming less and less affordable. Additional barriers to people accessing secure housing in the city must be torn down – starting with discrimination against welfare recipients.”