Landlords Continue to Discriminate Against Benefit Claimants, Research Suggests

to buy or not to buy

In a landmark hearing that took place earlier this year, a judge ruled for the first time that blanket bans on benefit claimants by private landlords were unlawful. The “No DSS” clause has been a standard feature in countless rental contracts and tenancy agreements for decades, though it was recently declared discriminatory and in direct violation of equality laws.

Unfortunately, a new study conducted by the BBC suggests that most private landlords are in no hurry to alter their policies regarding DSS renters.  Conducting an analysis on more than 9,000 Open Rent listings, the BBC found that around 75% of all private listings excluded prospective tenants on benefits.

Open Rent stated that landlords are advised to assess tenants “on their own merits” and therefore could not be held responsible for the individual policies and practices of the landlords using their website.

A wake-up call going unheard?

In the wake of the landmark ruling last month, housing charity Shelter’s chief executive insisted that the time had come for private landlords across the UK to put an end to unfair discrimination.

“Last month’s ruling should be a wake-up call for landlords and letting agents clean up their act and treat all renters equally,” commented Polly Neate.

“We won’t stop fighting DSS discrimination until it’s banished for good.”

“Open Rent should ban landlords from advertising their properties as ‘DSS not accepted’, and remind them of their legal duty not to discriminate.”

Her sentiments were shared by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which went further to warn landlords that claims may be filed against them if their letting policies remain discriminatory.

“These figures show that there is still some way to go before we can truly end the discrimination against women and disabled people who claim benefits,” said a spokesman on behalf of the EHRC.

“If landlords and estate agents don’t change their policies and practices, they will be at risk of claims of discrimination from would-be tenants.”

A joint responsibility

During its assessment of Open Rent, the BBC discovered that the portal continues to provide landlords with the opportunity to tick or exclude a box with the description “DSS income accepted.” Those who do not tick this box effectively restrict their listings only to those who are not on benefits at the time.

When questioned on this policy by the BBC, Open Rent remained adamant that it “fully supported Shelter’s efforts to eliminate blanket bans.”

Though at the same time added, “based on speaking to our customers, including surveying hundreds of benefit claimants directly, applicants should be made aware upfront of any conditions of renting a property.”

In addition, Open Rent claimed that some of the landlords they work with have terms and conditions in their own mortgage contracts that prohibit them from accepting DSS tenants.

“We’re committed to solving root causes like these; however, in the meantime, our customers are overwhelmingly telling us we should not be pretending the problem doesn’t exist,” said Open Rent founder Adam Hyslop.

“Hiding conditions of renting over which the landlord has no discretion only wastes time for all involved and indeed makes the situation far worse for the very people Shelter is trying to help.”