DSS discrimination: campaign update

DSS discrimination: campaign update

Shelter supporters are a powerful bunch.

Since we launched our campaign against DSS discrimination in August, they’ve acted en mass. Thousands have emailed, tweeted and called Ludlow Thompson, a leading letting agent, to demand that they stamp out discrimination against renters on housing benefit

Our joint investigation with the National Housing Federation suggested that Ludlow Thompson were frequently banning renters on housing benefit from homes they let. In response to the investigation, Ludlow told us that it was not company policy to turn away renters who receive housing benefit. However, when presented with a breakdown of the results, which suggested that prejudice was widespread, Ludlow didn’t respond. But we’ve just had a breakthrough, all thanks to our supporters…

Supporters were rightly outraged by the findings. They knew that a ban on renters who receive benefits was totally unjustified. So, they raised their voice to tell Ludlow Thompson to stop. Every single email to the CEO, every single tweet to head office, and every single phone call to branches cranked the pressure up. And it worked.

Ludlow Thompson recently wrote to us to outline how they’ve reminded & retrained staff not to discriminate against renters on benefits (as per company policy), and to highlight updates to website FAQs for applicants. This is progress and we welcome Ludlow’s actions.

We’ve written back to Ludlow to make it clear that to genuinely end discrimination, they must not market any properties that seek to exclude tenants receiving housing benefit from being considered equally. And we set out the practical steps from our report that we’re asking all letting agents to take towards this:

1. Ending all bans against letting to tenants on housing benefit

2. Stopping using adverts which state or imply that properties are not available to tenants on housing benefit e.g. ‘No DSS’, ‘professional tenants only’

3. Stopping advising landlords not to let to tenants claiming housing benefit

4. Providing all staff with training on the benefits system so they understand how it works and can advise landlords about letting to tenants on housing benefit

We’ve requested a meeting to learn more about Ludlow Thompson’s actions and their plans for addressing the matter further. They are moving in the right direction. We really hope that they seize this opportunity to set the standard for the rest of the lettings industry to follow.

Responsible letting agents don’t discriminate against renters on housing benefit, nor do they expose landlords to legal risks. We’re urging all agents to comply with the steps above, particularly the other agents who we found had ‘no DSS’ practices in our original investigation.

Industry voices support our view that these policies are unfair and risk breaching the Equality Act 2010. The Residential Landlords Association agree that ‘no DSS’ policies are wrong, and the Landlord Law blog shared our advice on avoiding discrimination.

The tide’s slowly starting to turn. Letting agents and landlords alike are waking up to the fact that housing benefit bans are both indefensible prejudice and potentially unlawful. Neither us, nor our supporters, will rest until we see genuine change, and all renters are treated fairly on a case by case basis.

Our full letter to Ludlow Thompson can be viewed here. Their response can be viewed here.