Most agents claim to have stopped doing it and the main portals now ban them, but a landmark ruling announced today has confirmed that housing benefits discrimination and the ‘No DSS’ adverts that are its most obvious output are also a breach of the Equality Act.
The case, which was heard at York County Court, was a test case for housing charity Shelter’s two-year long No DSS campaign to end benefits-based discrimination within the private rental market.
Following the ruling by District Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark, letting agents and landlords are being warned by the charity that they risk legal action if they continue to prevent housing benefit tenants from renting homes.
She 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.”
Mother of two
This test case was brought by an un-named single mother of two who, after a letting agent refused to rent any properties to her because she receives housing benefit, contacted Shelter to take on her case.
The woman, who works part-time, was looking for a new home in October 2018 after receiving a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction from her landlord.
After weeks of searching, she found a two-bedroom house for her family, but the letting agent told her she could not rent it because of their long-standing policy of not accepting housing benefit.
This made her homeless and she was forced to move into a hostel with her children.
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.”
Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing Luke Hall MP says: “Everyone should have the same opportunity when looking for a home and discriminating against someone simply because they receive benefits has no place in a modern housing market.
“That’s why we have been working with landlords and letting agents to help ensure prospective tenants are treated on an individual basis and that benefits are not seen as a barrier to giving someone a place to live.”
“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,” says Chris Norris, Policy Director for the National Residential Landlords Association.
“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.”