1 in 10 online property adverts refuse to take people on benefits

Thousands of privately rented properties are carrying disclaimers that block people on benefits, figures show.

An investigation into the number of landlords that are discriminating against housing benefit claimants found one in 10 won’t accept them, with these clauses being hidden in the terms and conditions.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) and charity Shelter examined 86,000 letting agent adverts on Zoopla – it found at least 8,710 adverts contained disclaimers such as ‘no DSS’ or ‘no housing benefit’.

‘No DSS’ stands for ‘no Department for Social Security’ and is based on a welfare department that no longer exists. The discriminatory term is still widely used in listings, often to outline the people that won’t be considered.

In England, 1.4 million people now rent privately and rely on housing benefit at the same time. This number has risen significantly in the past decade as a result of low employment and wage growth, a lack of social housing and rising house prices.

Amongst those being locked out by benefit disclaimers are also vulnerable people with disabilities which could be against the law.

While it is not unlawful to refuse people on benefits, Shelter said it was likely to contravene the Equality Act.

The Act protects disabled people and women – who make up the majority of private sector tenants on benefits in England.

The research also found that while some listings aren’t explicitly rejecting benefit claimants, terms such as "professionals only" could be isolating them from the market.

The NHA’s figures follow a report by Citizen’s Advice in August that found tenants who complain are 50% more likely to be victims of revenge evictions.

Meanwhile a report this time last year found just two in 10 landlords are willing to let to Universal Credit families.

"I woke up every day at 6am to look for a home"

Benefit claimant Michelle Hunte and her family were made homeless in 2016 after her landlord ended their tenancy.

“I couldn’t find anywhere to live so ended up in a horrible B&B with only a single bed for myself, my husband and our 1 year old child who is disabled," she said.

"There was no space for a cot, it was dirty, there were no cooking facilities. There was nowhere for my other children to sleep so they had to stay with different family and friends.

“I woke up every day at 6am to look for a home. Everywhere I looked online said ‘No DSS’ – Gumtree, Facebook, everywhere. I’d spend the rest of the day going to every letting agent in the area. Every single one said we don’t take people on housing benefit. There was no point trying to explain my situation. It was so stressful being apart from my family. I’m now suffering from anxiety and depression. I just didn’t know what was going to happen one day to the next.

“Eventually I found this home through Shepherds Bush Housing Association who were the only landlords who would accept someone on benefits. They really supported me and gave me a long tenancy. I’ve never missed a rent payment before and I’ve looked after every home I’ve lived in really well. This kind of discrimination has to stop.”

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The National Housing Federation and Shelter have now joined forces to campaign for an end to this discriminatory practicce.

Kate Henderson, of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations in England, social landlords to around 6 million people, says: "Landlords and letting agents are pushing people towards homelessness and could be breaking equality law. It is beyond me why property websites are permitting these adverts. They’re sending the message that they’re ok discriminating against someone, simply because they’re on benefits. This has to change.

Polly Neate, at Shelter, added: "It’s staggering to see this discrimination laid out in black and white – and brazenly enforced by letting agents, landlords and online property websites. ‘No DSS’ is outdated, offensive and causing misery for thousands.

"Families are finding themselves barred from renting homes time and time again, simply because they need a Housing Benefit top up. At a time when colossal private rents are out of reach for so many, that seems absurd.

"Not only is ‘No DSS’ grossly unfair, it is likely to be unlawful because it overwhelming affects women and disabled people. That’s why we need the lettings industry to stop blaming each other, accept its role in this shocking practice and clean up its act."

Top 10 worst areas for "No DSS" listings

  • North Cumbria 59%

  • West Cumbria 38%

  • Gloucester 35%

  • Lincoln 34%

  • Halifax 32%

  • Worthing 31%

  • Weston Super Mare 29%

  • Oldham & Rochdale 29%

  • Thameside & Glossop 29%

  • Wolds & Coast 27%

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