“No DSS” letting policy held to be unlawful

22/07/2020

Earlier this month, York County Court held that a letting agent’s policy of automatically rejecting tenancy applications from tenants receiving housing benefit was in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

The facts of the case were that the prospective tenant was able to provide excellent references from both of her landlords from the last nine years. She had a good record of paying her rent on time, had a professional guarantor and could pay up to six-months rent in advance. However, as the letting agent had a blanket policy of not accepting DSS tenants she was not even considered and ended up homeless.

The Court held that, because of the letting agent’s decision, the prospective tenant had experienced indirect discrimination on grounds of sex and disability. This being because women and people with disabilities are disproportionately more likely to receive housing benefit, and therefore disproportionately affected by a blanket “No DSS” policy.

What next?

The decision is a clear message to landlords and letting agents that blanket policies to DSS tenants should be reviewed. It is also part of Shelter’s wider campaign to #EndDSSDiscrimination. Recent progress includes: Mortgage lenders removing conditions prohibiting landlords letting to DSS tenants and sites such as Zoopla and Rightmove removing “No DSS” restrictions from online adverts.

The response from the National Residential Landlords Association has been constructive. Chris Norris, policy director commented:

“No landlord should discriminate against tenants because they are in receipt of benefits. Every tenant’s circumstance is different and so they should be treated on a case by case basis based on their ability to sustain a tenancy.”

“More broadly, the government can also support this work by ensuring benefits cover rents entirely. It should also convert the loans to cover the five-week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit into grants.”

How Pinney Talfourd can help

Pinney Talfourd are experts in residential property litigation and can advise you on changes to the law so you are given up to date advice.

Please do not hesitate to contact either Stephen Eccles on 01708 463202 or Oliver-James Topping on 01708 463227 should you wish to discuss anything further.   

The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Oliver-James Topping, Solicitor in the Residential Property Litigation Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of July 2020.

22/07/2020

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