Landlords Continue to Discriminate Against Benefit Claimants, Research Suggests
In a landmark hearing that took place earlier this year, a judge ruled for the first time that blanket bans on benefit claimants by private landlords were unlawful. The “No DSS” clause has been a standard feature in countless rental contracts and tenancy agreements for decades, though was recently declared discriminatory and in direct violation of equality laws.
Unfortunately, a new study conducted by the BBC suggests that most private landlords are in no hurry to alter their policies regarding DSS renters. Conducting an analysis on more than 9,000 OpenRent listings, the BBC found that around 75% of all private listings excluded prospective tenants on benefits.
OpenRent stated that landlords are advised to assess tenants “on their own merits” and therefore could not be held responsible for the individual policies and practices of the landlords using their website.
A Wake-Up Call Going Unheard?
In the wake of the landmark ruling last month, housing charity Shelter’s chief executive insisted that the time had come for private landlords across the UK to put an end to unfair discrimination.
“Last month’s ruling should be a wake-up call for landlords and letting agents to clean up their act and treat all renters equally,” commented Polly Neate.
“We won’t stop fighting DSS discrimination until it’s banished for good,”
“OpenRent should ban landlords from advertising their properties as ‘DSS not accepted’ – and remind them of their legal duty not to discriminate.”
Her sentiments were shared by the Equality and Human Right Commission (EHRC), which went further to warn landlords that claims may be filed against them if their letting policies remain discriminatory.
“These figures show that there is still some way to go before we can truly end the discrimination against women and disabled people who claim benefits,” said a spokesman on behalf of the EHRC.
“If landlords and estate agents don’t change their policies and practices, they will be at risk of claims of discrimination from would-be tenants.”
A Joint Responsibility
During its assessment of OpenRent, the BBC discovered that the portal continues to provide landlords with the opportunity to tick or exclude a box with the description “DSS income accepted”. Those who do not tick this box effectively restricting their listings only to those who are not on benefits at the time.
When questioned on this policy by the BBC, OpenRent remained adamant that it “fully supported Shelter’s efforts to eliminate blanket bans.”
Though at the same time added: “based on speaking to our customers including surveying hundreds of benefit claimants directly, was that applicants should be made aware upfront of any conditions of renting a property”.
In addition, OpenRent claimed that some of the landlords they work with have terms and conditions in their own mortgage contracts which prohibit them from accepting DSS tenants.
“We’re committed to solving root causes like these, however in the meantime our customers are overwhelmingly telling us we should not be pretending the problem doesn’t exist,” said OpenRent founder Adam Hyslop.
“Hiding conditions of renting over which the landlord has no discretion only wastes time for all involved, and indeed makes the situation far worse for the very people Shelter is trying to help.”