The Government’s claim that prospective tenants in receipt of Universal Benefits who feel they have been discriminated against by letting agents via No DSS policies can access redress through one of the two government-approved schemes is looking shaky, our research shows.
Housing minister Eddie Hughes’ comments were made this week in response to Labour MP Feryal Clark’s question in parliament asking what the Government is doing to tackle ‘discrimination against people claiming housing benefit in the private rented sector and what recourse is open to people affected by that discrimination’.
The minister (pictured) said: “It is a legal requirement for letting and managing agents in England to belong to one of the two government-approved redress schemes. If a prospective tenant feels that a letting agent is acting unfairly or continues to offer a poor service, they can raise a formal complaint”.
But research by The Negotiator shows that Hughes’ hopes that the redress providers are a key way to gain redress over ‘No DSS’ rental refusals are built on shallow foundations.
The Property Redress Scheme (PRS) run by Hamilton Fraser, holds anonymised complaints data that reveals how, out of the 35 complaints about agents since 2016 involving discrimination, only one directly involved a ‘No DSS’ case.
Two others related to discrimination against prospective tenants on other grounds such as race or age.
TPO has told us that from January 2020 to 24 May 2021, it logged 35 enquiries in relation to No DSS, but no case closures. This may be that tenants who are told that they can’t apply just move on to the next property as they need somewhere to live first and foremost, but ring TPO for advice.
The Ombudsman says: “Agents should consider the totality of tenants’ situations to allow landlords to make informed decisions about who should rent their property.
“Blanket bans such as ‘no benefit tenants’ exclude potential applicants who may well be able to afford the property.
“Where a landlord has to impose restrictions due to insurance or mortgage conditions, we expect agents to request written evidence confirming the position and to explain the reason to prospective tenants.”