Judge Declares DSS Exclusions by Private Landlords ‘Unlawful’
For the first time, a judge in the United Kingdom has ruled that the exclusion of people on housing benefit by private landlords is discriminatory and unlawful. The court ruling was heralded as “momentous” by those campaigning for change, following a complex legal battle involving a single mother-of-two made homeless due to the discriminatory policies of a letting agent.
In an interview with BBC News, the woman (whose identity remains protected) explained that after being evicted by her landlord on the basis of a “no fault” eviction, subsequent agents were unwilling to consider her case.
“I was shocked and found it very unfair that they wouldn’t even give me a chance,” she said.
“I had excellent references from both my landlords of the last nine years as I’ve always paid my rent on time and I had a professional guarantor,”
“I could have paid up to six months’ rent in advance because my parents lent me the amount,”
“When the letting agent wouldn’t take me because of a company policy, I felt offended that after all those years when I have prided myself on paying my rent, paying my bills, being a good tenant, it just meant nothing,”
“When I realised I was going to be homeless because I couldn’t find anywhere, I felt sick to my stomach.”
Her case was subsequently taken on by housing charity Shelter, which has assisted hundreds of people faced with similar discrimination. Simply because she was on housing benefits, the mother of two was considered unsuitable for private property rental and subsequently rendered homeless.
A Victory for Common Sense
Her case was ultimately heard by District Judge Victoria Mark in York County Court, who went on to reach the landmark ruling on July 1.
“Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of sex and disability,” was the ruling of the judge, meaning that the individual’s exclusion directly contravened the Equality Act 2010.
Speaking on behalf of Shelter, chief executive Polly Neate welcomed the ruling and suggested that it may pave the way for a more inclusive future for the private rentals market.
“This momentous ruling should be the nail in the coffin for ‘No DSS’ discrimination,” she said.
“It will help give security and stability to people who unfairly struggle to find a place to live just because they receive housing benefit.”
Evidence suggests that the vast majority of DSS tenants fulfil their financial obligations and care for their rented properties no differently than non-DSS tenants. However, a survey conducted on behalf of Shelter suggested that at least two-thirds of private landlords in the UK discriminate against those on housing benefits.
“This is the first time a court has fully considered a case like this,” commented Shelter solicitor Rose Arnall.
“It finally clarifies that discriminating against people in need of housing benefits is not just morally wrong, it is against the law,”
“This sends a huge signal to letting agents and landlords that they must end these practices and do so immediately.”