Fighting "No DSS" discrimination
We’ve seen some promising news over the last few days as two legal cases brought by tenants in England have found that barring prospective tenants from renting property if they are claiming benefits is discriminatory. The ruling came after women wrote letters of complaint to lettings agents who refused to show them properties after learning the were claiming benefits. After the agencies refused to budge, Shelter England took up their cases and were successful in forcing the agencies to issue letters of apology and pay legal costs.
This comes after another case in England in 2018, where a single mother successfully argued that “No DSS” notices, or restrictions on people claiming benefits were discriminatory against women and people with disabilities, as they are more likely to claim.
Our view in TPAS Cymru is that there is no place for discrimination against people who claim state support for whatever reason, and that landlords and agents must be willing to accept any tenant with the ability to pay rent, no matter the means. Landlords and agents must also be aware of the indirect discrimination resulting from “No DSS” statements, and the impact this can have on vulnerable people.
We agree with the arguments put forward by the Residential Landlord’s Association Wales that mortgage providers must be willing to lend to landlords who want to let to benefits claimants. There should be no barriers in front of landlords who want to do the right thing, and this includes barriers set by the financial system.
We believe that Universal Credit claimants should be able to choose that the housing element of their benefit is paid directly to their landlord. We believe that this will help reduce the number of people in rent arrears and will be particularly beneficial to the most vulnerable tenants. We’re happy to see RLA Wales support this too.
We’re worried by the long waiting times faced by new Universal Credit claimants and acknowledge that a five-week waiting period from initial claim to first payment can result in claimants already being in rent arrears when their first payment arrives. We urge serious action from UK Government rectify this as soon as possible, for the benefit of tenants and landlords across the country, and particularly in areas of Wales where private rental accommodation makes up a significant part of councils’ temporary accommodation and homelessness prevention service.
If you would like more information, please get in touch at [email protected]
If you have been refused accommodation in a way you believe is discriminatory, contact our friends at Shelter Cymru.
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