Letting agents who try to screen out applicants for rented properties who are on benefits may now be breaking the law, it has been claimed.
This follows legal action brought by Birmingham tenant Rosie Keogh with the help of housing charity Shelter against a lettings agency after she claimed to have been rejected because part of her rent was to be paid by housing benefit.
“You feel like a second-class citizen,” she told the BBC. “I felt as a housing benefit claimant I was somehow not be trusted with paying my rent on time.”
Rosie (pictured, left) says she hopes the case will stop the common NO DSS signs seen in many rental ads by setting a precedent making the “No DSS rule unlawful [which] will then open up the market so everyone can participate in it,” she said.
The Moseley-based part-time cleaner and former para-legal secretary had a eleven-year track record of paying her rent on time before encountering problems in 2016 when she applied to rent a property marketed by lettings firm Nicholas George.
She claimed that, because 60% of people on housing benefit are women, and that 95% of single parents are women, the agent’s actions discriminated against her.
The agency later settled the case out of court with a £2,000 compensation which, says housing charity Shelter, establishes the principal of sexual discrimination under the Equality Act.
Following the case, discrimination against those trying to rent homes who have some or all of their rent paid with benefits was condemned by Shelter Chief Executive Polly Neate as well as Chris Norris, Head of Policy at the National Landlords Association and Labour’s housing spokesperson John Healey.
A detailed report into the problems faced by tenants who are in receipt of benefits by Shelter last year revealed that 42% of landlords do not rent to them and 21% said they would prefer not to.
Read the full Shelter report.