Landlord’s ‘No DSS’ policy used by 63% of private landlords ruled unlawful
This article was published on: 5th August 2020Matt Pugh
In a landmark ruling in York County Court last month, with far-reaching consequences for all residential landlords and letting agencies in England and Wales, it was held that a blanket ban on renting property to people on housing benefit is unlawful and amounts to indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex and disability under sections 19 and 29 of the Equality Act 2010, given that, women and disabled people are the groups most likely to be reliant on housing benefits. Whilst County Court decisions are not binding, it is likely that this case will be relied upon in similar cases in future and should there be an appeal to the High Court, the appeal decision would be binding. The Claimant’s legal representation was arranged by charity Shelter who have supported a number of similar cases which have settled out of court.
In October 2018, the unnamed Claimant, who was living in a privately rented property at the time, was told that her landlord wanted the property back for a family member to live and a ‘no-fault’ s21 notice was served.
The Claimant began to look for somewhere else to live and on 26 November 2018, she saw an advert for a two-bedroom property in York which the Defendant was advertising as being to let for £795 per month. The Claimant contacted the Defendant stating that she was interested in the property and had excellent references, payment history and worked part-time whilst receiving some Housing Benefit.
The Claimant’s request for a viewing was denied because the Defendant agency did not accept applications from prospective tenants on housing benefit and so they could not proceed. The Claimant queried why they did not accept tenants on housing benefit and was told that “Rather than it being on an ad hoc basis we have had a policy for many years not to accept housing benefit tenants”.
In her ruling, Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark said that “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”.
‘No DSS’, ‘no benefits’ and ‘no Universal Credit’ policies are widespread throughout the UK, and this case is not the first time a renter has been turned away due to being in receipt of housing benefit.
A 2020 YouGov survey found that 63% of private landlords either operate an outright ban on letting to tenants receiving housing benefit or say they prefer not to let to this group. This ruling means that letting agents and private landlords will have to stop doing this so that renters who receive housing benefit are no longer automatically barred from renting any privately rented properties. There is however nothing to stop landlords pricing such tenants out of the market and as such, this could lead to an increase in rentals in some areas including those undergoing ‘gentrification’.
Author: Rebecca Parker, Paralegal