Shelter and the National Housing Federation

Shelter and the National Housing Federation have launched a new campaign to prevent landlords and letting agents from refusing to let properties to tenants who are on state benefits.

A YouGov survey of almost 4,000 private renters found that almost a third of those in receipt of benefits said they had not been able to secure a property due to a ‘no DSS’ policy in the last 5 years. Shelter also carried out a survey and found that most families who are homeless and living in emergency accommodation are in fact working but rely on benefits to top up their rental payments.

As a response to the difficulties faced by tenants Shelter and the National Housing Federation (NHF) has launched a campaign to stamp out what they refer to as the ‘benefit ban’. Shelter carried out a number of mystery shopping exercises and have allegedly discovered a number of agents refusing to rent to tenants on benefits. Shelter alleges that upon calling agents to request details about properties some agents refused to assist when discovering that the caller was on benefits. They have named one well known agent and will be naming more in the coming weeks.

Shelter and NHF have also committed to assist tenants who have been subject to the ‘benefit ban’ by challenging it in the courts. Shelter have stated on their website that in the next few months they will be issuing a number of test cases in court to challenge those who refuse to consider letting to people on benefits. The courts will be asked to decide whether the practise of refusing to rent to those on benefits is lawful or indirect discrimination.

Comment

We are aware that many agents and landlords would not entertain a ‘no DSS’ policy. However, if the findings of Shelter’s survey are correct then it does appear that individuals are electing not to rent to tenants who are on benefits outright. Tenants should be processed on a case by case basis only and not on a blanket policy such as ‘no DSS.’ Training may well be required for individuals who are promoting a ‘benefit ban’ and advice should be sought if concerns have been raised.

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