A 19-branch estate agency in the West Midlands may have to pay damages to a disabled man and his family after a judge ruled that the company’s blanket policy of refusing tenants in receipt of housing benefit was ‘unlawful discrimination’.
The case, which was brought by 29-year-old house-hunter Stephen Tyler and his family but supported by Shelter, followed an admission to him by Paul Carr estate agency that that it was ‘company policy’ to refuse to rent to people who receive housing benefit.
The Tyler family had been evicted from their previous home by their landlord after asking for changes to be made to the property to accommodate Tyler’s disabilities, which were caused by a road traffic accident in 2016.
He asked to view three properties advertised by the agency but was refused on the basis of his benefits status – despite having a spotless rental track record.
Supported by Shelter solicitor Rose Arnall, Tyler took the agency to court to prove ‘No DSS’ discrimination and has now won confirmation that the agency’s approach is unlawful and in breach of the Equality Act.
Shelter says the discrimination Tyler faced was deemed in breach of the Equality Act because it dis-proportionally affects disabled people, who are more likely to need some support with paying their rent.
While handing down her judgement, Judge Mary Stacey ruled that: “There is no doubt that there was a blanket policy that no one in receipt of housing benefit would be considered for the three properties. It put the claimant and other disabled people at a particular disadvantage when compared to others.
The win is the second recent victory secured by Shelter – in July a similar case was won on behalf of a young single mother at York County Court.
Following that case the agency involved agreed to settle out of court, issued public apologies, and paid damages and costs of up to £13,000.