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Landlords warned about ‘No DSS’ discrimination after new legal cases

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Landlords are being warned about discriminating against benefit claimants after legal victories by two women.

Amanda Staples and Emma Loffler won out-of-court settlements against ‘No DSS’ policies by letting agents, on the grounds of indirect discrimination. Both are single mothers who rely on benefits to supplement their earnings.

Landlords warned about ‘No DSS’ discrimination after new legal cases

Ms Staples has three primary-aged children and needed to find a home to rent after the breakdown of her marriage. Speaking to the BBC, she said: “I had noticed ‘No DSS’ adverts before but I thought I would be able to find somewhere locally so my children could still go to the same school and so I could keep my job there.”

In spite of offering to pay up to 12 months’ rent in advance, Ms Staples was unable to find accommodation. “I kept ringing around estate agents and when I said I would be a housing benefit [claimant] it was a blanket ‘No’.”

With backing from the housing charity, Shelter, she took legal action against one agent. The agent settled the case out of court, agreeing to write a public letter of apology and to pay £3,000 in compensation and £10,000 in legal costs.

In the case of Ms Loffler, a public letter of apology was also issued along with £3,500 in compensation and £2,500 in legal costs.

In a previous ruling, Rosie Keogh successfully argued that blanket bans on claimants constituted indirect discriminating because of sex and disability, as women and disabled people are more likely to be reliant on benefits to help pay their rent. Ms Keogh’s case was cited by Staples and Loffler.

Shelter has warned that landlords discriminating against claimants could be breaking the law and face legal action. However, a recent YouGov poll of 1,000 private landlords revealed that 86% believed ‘No DSS’ signs to be lawful (or were not sure), while 29% said they did not let to people receiving housing benefit on the advice of their letting agent. Research by Shelter also found that more than one in 10 advertisements on main property portals contained phrases such as ‘No DSS’.

Shelter chief executive, Polly Neate said: “The message is clear – letting agents and landlords must not treat potential tenants as second-class citizens simply because they rely on benefits. If they continue to blindly discriminate against those receiving housing benefit, they risk legal action and a hefty fine.

“Not only is ‘No DSS’ discrimination outdated and grossly unfair, it is unlawful under the Equality Act because it overwhelming impacts women and disabled people, who are more likely to need support paying their rent.”

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) wants the government to help landlords comply with the law by ending claimant-ban clauses in buy-to-let mortgages. The RLA also wants to see housing benefit aligned with local rent levels and the restoration of the option of having housing benefit paid directly to a landlord.

Read more about this story on the BBC website.

Neil Jennings

Neil is the Operations Director at Assetgrove Lettings, London's Leading Rent Guarantee Company, providing Landlords with no voids, property maintenance, fee-free property management and stress-free service.

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