Read a more recent article on DSS in the private rented sector.
The number of landlords who don’t accept tenants who are on state benefits has jumped in recent years, but a court case this month which granted a single mum compensation for discrimination could change the status quo.
A single mother has won £2,000 compensation in a case against a letting agent on the grounds of sex discrimination after they would not accept her as a tenant due to the fact that she was claiming benefits. She argued that single women were disproportionately discriminated against by landlords who employed a “No DSS” policy, because they were more likely to be claiming housing benefit than single men according to statistics, as well as the increased likelihood of being a single mother rather than a single father.
Department for Work and Pensions figures show that 60% of adults on housing benefits are women, while 95% of single parents claiming housing benefits are female, and 66% of all single person household benefit claims are made by women.
Treat people fairly
The ruling could affect whether landlords and letting agents will continue to have the same freedom to reject tenants claiming benefits. According to a Shelter survey last year, 43% of private landlords had an outright ban on benefits claimants, while 18% said they preferred not to let to them.
The claimant’s legal officer Rose Arnall said: “By applying a blanket policy they are actually preventing good tenants from accessing the private rented sector.
“Women are more likely to be caring for children and therefore working part-time and are therefore more likely to top up their income by claiming housing benefit.”
One reason landlords are reluctant, or unable, to offer their properties to tenants on benefits is that some landlord insurance policies are not valid for such tenants, or they can be subject to higher premiums because they are seen as a higher risk than those in full-time jobs.
Changes to benefits in recent years has also made it more difficult for some private renters to cover their outgoings, while a shortage of social housing is a major problem in some areas which means tenants on benefits are forced to stump up more money for private rental properties.
Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “Our advisers repeatedly hear from desperate mothers battling to find someone willing to let to them, in spite of being able to pay the rent.
“We are urging all landlords and letting agents to get rid of ‘no DSS’ policies, and treat people fairly on a case-by-case basis.”
James Davies, Upad CEO, added: “If you’re a landlord who engages directly with those you let to, you’ll get a sense as to their suitability as a tenant regardless of their benefit status. However, the ‘discriminatory’ label attributed to some landlords is often not fair and more needs to be done to examine other aspects of the rental ecosystem so that their reasons for stipulating exclusions can be better understood.”