No children, no dogs, no DSS: The alternative landlord guide

In our swollen, overheated private rental market, some letting agencies have started to misbehave. Badly. Here are just a few examples:

1: How to find a tenant (why tenants can’t find somewhere to live)

The lettings agency below thought mocking rough sleepers was an appropriate way to promote their tenant vetting service.*

croppedlettings

Ever seen ‘no DSS’ in an advert? It stands for the ‘Department for Social Security,’ a government department which no longer exists, but was previously responsible for welfare benefits. ‘No DSS’ means that the landlord or letting agent won’t rent to someone on housing benefit.

The modern ‘No DSS’ sign is as likely to be found in an online advert as a lettings agency window. Sadly, even tenants are getting in on the game, as a quick search of the internet demonstrates:

Screenshot3

Rising rents and shrinking wages mean that being in work is no longer a guarantee you won’t need help with your housing costs. But if you if you do receive this help, it’s guaranteed that you will be openly discriminated against.

2: How to increase your rental income (why tenants are struggling to pay their bills)

This letter was sent to a homeowner, instead of a landlord. The agency promote the fact that local rents have grown faster than wages to lure landlords into using their services to get more rent.

Letter

Landlords who use lettings agents told us that their number one reason for increasing the rent is because their letting agent advised them to – with letters like this.

3: How to evict a tenant (why the end of private tenancies is a leading cause of homelessness)  

This charming advert uses Shelter’s research to highlight how many people are falling behind with their bills – and offers a friendly hand to help evict them.

Evict a tenant2

Everything listed above is shocking, but within the confines of the law.

So how are these letting agents getting away with it?

Our overheated rental market leaves renters with few rights and little market power – meaning they’re at the mercy of letting agents and landlords like those above. There are good landlords and letting agents, but ones like those above blight the market and ruin the reputation of those who do good by their tenants.

Renting can be better. We want to see it changed – to become more affordable, more stable, and a tenure that everyone can access. The alternative is increasing homelessness and more people struggling.

Help us campaign to make renting better today.

If you’re renting privately and need some advice, check out our online advice pages here.

(If you thought this was bad, check this out, and this)

*Since this blog was published the letting agent has been in contact to say they are no longer using the advert.

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18 Comments
  1. When an advert says “no dss”. It is not discrimination. Landlord who have had housing benefit tenants, know they are high risk of non-payment.

    In the past the rent used to be paid directly to the landlord. Since 2008, the rent has been into the tenant bank account, which has caused a huge number of tenants not paying their rent and money been spent on other things.

    Shelter add insult to injury, by then going on to say the housing benefit bill is going up, even though a proportion of it never gets paid to the landlords. If the money gets spend by the tenant, then Shelter should provide this data.

    There are landlords who have to evict a housing benefit tenant, because the property has been wrecked, this has been a common trick, to get council housing. Because once a tenant is in temporary housing, they are a high priority case and they can jump the queue.

    If a landlord has bad experiences with a housing benefit again, are they likely to trust another one?

    By Shelter remaining silent of problems faced by landlords, they help nightmare tenants, but it comes at the expense of good tenant.

    1. However, the same could be said of those who aren’t in receipt, surely?

      I have just been refused a house on the basis we have pets, and in the past it is because of our children. I totally understand that a bad tenant can be costly for a landlord. Perhaps this should be lobbied within some sort of landlord association? We do need things to protect landlords, but being a tenant is just as difficult. Shelter don’t add insult to injury. I am currently in a house that has been riddled with damp fir nearly 2 years. I am now suffering recurrent bronchitis and other chest problems. How is that right?

      Maybe you should think about the people who live in your houses. Try and see it from their perspective. Oh, and by the way, we are a full time working family and STILL need HB to help pay our rent. Good job we won’t rent from you!

    2. Renting a house is a business, so Im afraid to say sometimes business has expenses! A bad tenant is an expense, it shouldn’t affect your judgment on the next people to come.

    3. It’s quite possible to check the applicants history by asking previous agencies. The fact that some landlords, agencies etc are so willing to exclude good tenants by generalising from a few bad experiences is myopic and ignorant.

    4. You have just described discrimination! If you don’t take housing benefit tenants because of a previous bad experience it is exactly the same as not taking fat people/black people/polish people/lorry drivers etc because you’ve had previous bad experience. Having to claim hb to top up income DOESN’T define someone.

    5. A couple of actual facts for you.

      The HB bill IS going up, because rents are going up. “There exists a ‘vicious circle whereby rents and housing benefit drive each other up’ said the DCLG bit.ly/1QDK9DY The HB bill is NOT going up because some tenants are spending what should be their rent it on other things. HB *can* still be paid directly to the landlord – with the tenant’s permission. Until Universal Credit takes over anyway.

      Trashing the place does not mean you are just given social housing. You will have conditions to meet; the most contentious of which is proving “priority need”. (requirement abolished in Scotland; because they see that everyone *needs* housing). Most people don’t even get past this hurdle. Some ppl have been in ‘temporary’ housing for 10 years. You think that’s jumping a queue?!

      It is certainly true that HB payments can cause problems for landlords, though. http://bit.ly/V6wDxU That’s why most tenants don’t dare mention it. But with Section 21 “no fault” repossession at your disposal (S33 in Scotland) you still hold all the cards. Scotland is discussing banning this entitlement, and securing indefinite tenancies for tenants to give them real security of tenure. Obviously Scottish landlords hate the idea. Boo hoo.

    6. DSS tenants are often encompassed by prejudices and stereotypes, often resulting in them all being tarred with the same brush. Unfortunately. By not letting to DSS tenants, landlords are leaving out a large proportion of the population.
      Letting to DSS tenants is therefore as risky as letting to any other tenant – a risk that can easily be negated with Rent Guarantee Insurance, which is around £300 per annum!
      One day the bubble will burst leaving landlords unable to find tenants that can afford their rent prices

    7. Well ‘no kids’ is clearly discrimination! You can’t discriminate against race or sex…and having a child is a women’s right! You wouldn’t be born without it! Discriminating against the very thing/spirit/person who brought you into this world in the first place, to have that selfish business like view is just wrong… Disgraceful.

    8. We are in receipt of LHA top up and have pets and this kind of discrimination by landlords will push decent hardworking people into properties which are run by landlords who do not always operate within the law. Like judging someone wearing a hoodie who has mugged someone, then all hoodie wearers are judged as criminals.

    9. Your comments are disgusting. You’re a landlord making money on a property and taking advantage of poorer people. I am on DSS, and have never missed a payment to my landlord – whose previous tenants were both in employment and were evicted by the high courts because they didn’t pay their rent. If anything being on DSS means that my rent is guaranteed to be paid on time. Your employed tenants can soon be out of work after you’ve agreed to let to them…so you’re really not guaranteed that rent with any tenant. Don’t like it? Don’t be greedy and don’t slam a charity for telling a few home truths.

    10. It IS discrimination. These are not the days of Charles Dickens, and you cannot persist in acting as though anyone on housing benefit is a wayward convict out to trash your property. Respectable people need housing – stop being so ludicrously touchy about people who are going to be paying your mortgage, if only you’ll let them have a roof over their heads.

  2. My landlord told me he would much rather have a tenant who is receiving housing benefit because he us more likely to get paid. High risk tenants who are struggling can ask for their rent to be paid directly to the landlord. I have been a tenant for 17 years, I have never been successful in applying for council housing, despite having two children with special needs, another with asthma and a disabled husband. I am lucky to have a good landlord, as most of them are greedy and heartless. As for the letting agents, they are despicable parasites. They charged my son nearly £400 in letting fees and then we never heard from them again. We complained to them and the trading standards but to no avail. After 2 years that property is still vacant, so how much have they made conning people out of their hard earned cash.

    1. How do you find private renting with SN? I have a SN son, and he is the main reason we get extra benefits, yet I am so worried about letting them know he has SN. He doesn’t damage property or anything, but society’s view of his disability is so inaccurate they would probably think we are a risk :(

      1. To be honest, my son’s didn’t get diagnosed until we were already living here but our landlord is very good and understanding. In fact I think he may be one of a kind as he also gave us his car when he got a new one. There are some good ones but sadly most are only interested in profits and not people. I know it is a business to them but the rents are ridiculous and are the highest in Europe. I also think where you live will have an effect too as we are living in the north and rent a 5 bedroom house for £600 a month, which I know is cheap compared to southern properties. I hope you find somewhere lovely.

  3. Unfortunately, many people don’t realise
    that the choice of a landlord to let a property to a tenant in receipt of HB is
    actually decided by the mortgages they carry which have a clause in them that
    states they are not allowed to rent the property out to HB claimants because
    technically it’s illegal to offset housing benefit payments onto to a mortgage. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily stop a few landlords throwing caution to the wind and
    letting their properties out indiscriminately but most would not take the risk
    of forfeiting their BTL mortgages hence part of the ever growing problem of not
    just affordable but available housing for all. I speak from experience as I
    when I initially separated from my husband in 2012 I had an extremely hard time
    finding alternative accommodation for myself & our two young daughters that
    would/could accept HB payments. I find it even more depressing to see ads now
    that state ‘No Children’ as if being a HB claimant wasn’t discriminatory enough
    now they don’t want you because of any damage you might do or even (as I’ve
    been told by a local letting agent recently) because their neighbours don’t
    want any unnecessary noise being created. The fact that most of these ‘family’
    properties are firmly in school catchment areas is beyond ironic. So, it was OK
    when they had their families but not for another generation to do so? The
    acronym NIMBY springs to mind! ;)

  4. Unfortunately, many people don’t realise that the choice of a landlord to let a property to a tenant in receipt of HB is actually decided by the mortgages they carry which have a clause in them that states they are not allowed to rent the property out to HB
    claimants because technically it’s illegal to offset housing benefit payments onto to a mortgage. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily stop a few landlords throwing caution to the wind and letting their properties out indiscriminately but most would not take the risk
    of forfeiting their BTL mortgages hence part of the ever growing problem of not just affordable but available housing for all. I speak from experience as I when I initially separated from my husband in 2012 I had an extremely hard time finding alternative accommodation for myself & our two young daughters that would/could accept HB payments. I find it even more depressing to see ads now that state ‘No Children’ as if being a HB claimant wasn’t discriminatory enough now they don’t want you because of any damage you might do or even (as I’ve been told by a local letting agent recently) because their neighbours don’t want any unnecessary noise being created. The fact that most of these ‘family’ properties are firmly in school catchment areas is beyond ironic. So, it was OK when they had their families but not for another generation to do so? The acronym NIMBY springs to mind! LOL ;)

  5. There is vulnerability for both the tenant and the landlord.The most immune person is the agent.The agent provides security by bullying and terrorizing the tenant and by lying,exploiting and deceiving the landlord.The power dynamic is such that tenant pays the largest bill they have to manage to small minded,arrogant and ignorant sub humans who think sponsoring the local school fete and a few homeless people jokes defines an evolved human being.

  6. Personally I find it disgusting and I pray Brexit creates the housing chaos I expect so, 1) Rents can go back to rational rates for what the properties actually are 2) Give more opportunities to people like me, who work full-time (40+ hours) but earn minimum wage and therefore, cannot even afford a 1 bedroom flat within the majority of London.
    I have a recorded history of all my rental payments which were ALL made on time SINCE 2011 but those disgusting money hungry crooks have no heart and refuse to believe I can be a suitable tenant!

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