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.*
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:
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)
The letter below 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.
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.
The kind of ‘no DSS’ bans listed above could be unlawful discrimination.
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.
If you’re renting privately and need some advice, check out our online advice pages here.
*Since this blog was published the letting agent has been in contact to say they are no longer using the advert.