Landlords who say ‘no DSS’ are breaking equality laws…
The tens of thousands of lettings agents and landlords around the country who reject housing benefit claimants could be flouting equality laws, due to a recent legal case.
The widespread practice has led to “no-go zones” for those on lower incomes – more so in the more desirable residential areas.
But single mother Rosie Keogh won compensation recently for sex discrimination from a lettings agency click here that refused to consider her as a tenant because she was on state benefit.
The cleaner and former paralegal successfully argued that blanket bans on benefit claimants indirectly discriminated against women especially single women.
Rosie’s attempt to rent a property in a smart area was blocked when the lettings agent found she would pay some of the rent via housing benefit.
‘is this ok ?’
The agent told her it would not be proceeding with her application for a property in Kings Heath before it had looked into her individual circumstances or assessed how reliable a tenant she would be.
She had been living in the same property for 11 years with the rent being paid in full every time.
After a letter of complaint was dismissed by the agents, the mother of one issued a claim for discrimination in the county court.
Rosie said “I felt something had to be done to challenge it. I was motivated by anger at such inequitable practice,”
A survey of 1,137 private landlords for housing charity Shelter in 2017 found that 43% had an outright ban on letting to such claimants. A further 18% preferred not to let to them. And an investigation by the BBC last year found many landlords prefer to let to families with pets than those on benefits
Rosie was helped in her case by Shelter, whose 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.”
Eighteen months after Rosie first began her fightback, lettings agent Nicholas George admitted indirect discrimination on the grounds of her sex, settling out of court with £2,000 compensation.
She also had help from the Bar Pro Bono Unit with the case who found a barrister willing to help for free.
Although not setting a legally binding precedent, the case established that the practice could be considered indirect sexual discrimination which is a start we think, dont you ?.
The bbc spoke to Polly Neate chief executive of Shelter who said private renting was so expensive that many people could not get by without housing benefit, even if they were working.
“Our advisers repeatedly hear from desperate mothers battling to find someone willing to let to them.
“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.”
Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association, agreed there was no place for discrimination on the basis of someone’s gender.
“Cases like this highlight the very worst of what a minority of renters have to put up with when looking to secure a home in the private rented sector.”
We at propertuu think this has to change! sign up free today