Housing Benefit Discrimination Ruled Unlawful

Under a landmark court case heard in York County Court on 1 July, a tenant challenged a letting agent for rejecting her application for a privately rented property on the basis of her being in receipt of housing benefit, and won her case.

This is the first time a No DSS discrimination case has been heard and will mean landlords and letting agents could face legal action if they discriminate against tenants with “no DSS” adverts or requests.

We know from our work at Caridon Landlord Solutions that the transition over to the new Welfare System, Universal Credit, has forced some tenants into rent arrears and the subsequent negative media surrounding this has accelerated “no DSS” policies, preventing thousands of people from renting homes because they receive housing benefit.

We believe all prospective tenants should be given an equal chance of renting a property based on their suitability and be matched to a home that suits both their needs as well as meeting their landlord’s requirements. Universal Credit administration is much more complex than its predecessor for both tenants and landlords but the biggest barrier is a lack of understanding of the new system.

In many cases, if tenants are provided with the correct support to ensure they are receiving the correct amount of housing benefit, and landlords are educated on how the system works and in what circumstances they can apply for direct rental payments, then there is usually a solution that works for everyone.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of people to apply for Universal Credit, many of whom will have been tenants for many years. If agents/landlords were to apply ‘No DSS’ rules to all these tenancies, we would have millions more people facing homelessness but this is not necessary. We have been working with landlords and tenants who have suddenly found themselves in this position and most have been surprised at how a few simple steps can keep the tenancy on track.

Given the right advice and support, we can change the archaic preconceptions of tenants who receive housing benefit and give landlords the reassurance they need to support the housing market at a time when they are so desperately needed.

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