This blog rounds up everything we’re doing in the fight to end housing benefit discrimination.
We’re campaigning to end housing benefit discrimination – and we’re winning.
No one should be denied a safe home because of where their income comes from. But right now, hundreds of thousands of renters are facing discrimination when looking for a home. They’re being locked out of properties they could otherwise afford – simply because they receive housing benefit.
Since we started campaigning to end housing benefit discrimination, we’ve won important changes. But we know there’s still more to do. You can join our campaign here and be sure to drop by this blog regularly for the latest updates on the campaign.
20 April 2021: Third court declaration in a year for Shelter over unlawful ‘No DSS’ policies
For the third time in 12 months, a UK court has declared DSS discrimination to be unlawful. The case was Hayley Pearce v Michael Jones & Company and Ms Valerie Quick (2021).
On Monday 29 March at Worthing County Court, Deputy District Judge Byfield declared by consent that Michael Jones & Company estate agents had unlawfully discriminated against our client, single mum and freelance writer Hayley Pearce, by telling her that ‘people in receipt of benefits would not be acceptable’ to the landlord. Because Hayley is a woman, this simple rejection constituted unlawful indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex under the Equality Act 2010. Read more about Hayley’s story and how we worked with her to successfully challenge this discrimination.
5 February 2021: Over 20,000 people have emailed OpenRent
Today, the number of people that have emailed OpenRent calling on it to end DSS discrimination on its site has hit 20,000.
This is a huge milestone and shows the widespread support from people across the country in stamping out housing benefit discrimination.
OpenRent has chosen not to reply to the majority of the emails, but the few that did get a response were met with the same old tired excuses. When is OpenRent going to speak up and admit it is wrong? We will carry on fighting until it does.
If you want to take a stand against OpenRent, send an email to OpenRent’s head office, telling it to end ‘No DSS’ discrimination on its site.
15 January 2021: Exposing OpenRent’s blatant discrimination on social media
Before Christmas, we highlighted some of the negative comments about renters who receive housing benefit left by landlords on OpenRent’s ‘community forum’.
Today, we shared on social media even more examples of the discrimination found on the OpenRent community forum.
And then hundreds of Shelter supporters followed suit; tweeting @OpenRent and sharing on Facebook and Instagram, asking the question: do you really want to be known as the letting agent that is ‘pioneering the right to say no DSS’?!
OpenRent continues to allow its landlords to discriminate against tenants receiving housing benefit, both in its property adverts and in the community forum. This cannot continue.
21 December 2020: OpenRent community forum, or breeding ground for discrimination?
We’ve been talking a lot today about DSS discrimination on OpenRent and how their landlord ‘community forum’ provides a breeding ground for negative comments about renters who receive housing benefit.
The below image is of a comment made by a landlord on this forum.
Is this how OpenRent want to be known – as the company that landlords turn to because it allows them to discriminate?
Think that OpenRent should clean up their act? Click here to send an email to OpenRent’s head office, telling them to end ‘No DSS’ discrimination on their site.
21 December 2020: Tell OpenRent to stop ‘No DSS’ discrimination
From thousands of ‘No DSS’ adverts, to unclear advice given to landlords, and a ‘community forum’ that looks more like a breeding ground for discrimination, it is clear that, despite Shelter proving beyond doubt that housing benefit discrimination is unlawful, OpenRent have not caught up.
You can help us put an end to OpenRent’s unlawful discrimination against renters on housing benefit. Click here to send an email to OpenRent’s head office, telling them to end ‘No DSS’ discrimination on their site.
21 December 2020: Exposing the extent of bad behaviour on OpenRent
Earlier this week the BBC published an investigation showing that housing benefit discrimination continues to be rife within the private rented sector.
It made clear that too many letting agents are facilitating unlawful discrimination within their businesses. Online letting agent OpenRent were shown to be a particular worst offender.
Today, we have published our own research exposing the extent of bad behaviour on OpenRent.
We’ve revealed that of a total of 11,534 adverts analysed across London, Birmingham, Manchester and York, only 16% of these accepted housing benefit recipients.
Click here to read more about our findings.
18 December 2020: SpareRoom announce they are removing their ‘No DSS’ ads
Brilliant news and a huge step forward for our campaign to End DSS Discrimination. Following today’s BBC News investigation, SpareRoom have announced that they are removing the tick-box option to exclude people on benefits from their website.
Well done to SpareRoom for taking this bold step and leading the way.
18 December 2020: Have you experienced DSS discrimination in your search for a home? Here’s how you can challenge it
Have you experienced DSS discrimination in your search for a home?
Earlier this year, Shelter fought and won two legal cases which proved beyond doubt that housing benefit discrimination is unlawful. These landmark victories were the first nail in the coffin for ’No DSS’.
But we know that proving something is illegal doesn’t immediately end its practice. Since sharing the news of the first ruling in July, hundreds of people have contacted us with similar stories.
Today’s BBC investigation is further evidence that too many renters continue to be on the receiving end of housing benefit discrimination and too many letting agents and private landlords are ignoring the judgement.
Shelter will carry on fighting until discriminatory practices are stamped out for good. We’ve created a new advice page explaining how you can challenge DSS discrimination you’re experiencing.
18 December 2020: Why the old excuses for DSS discrimination don’t wash
When we talk about our campaign to End DSS Discrimination online we often get lots of questions and comments from letting agents and landlords about barriers they face that mean they can’t let to tenants who receive benefits – from a restrictive mortgage clause, to not being able to find an insurance policy.
Today’s BBC investigation into housing benefit discrimination highlights that many of these reasons are still being used by letting agents now to justify ‘No DSS’ policies and acting outside of the law.
We unpack some of these common reasons in this video and this blog post, explaining why they are not legitimate barriers to letting to people who receive benefits. Click the link above or watch the video below to find out more!
18 December 2020: BBC investigation shows some agents are worse offenders of DSS discrimination than others
Today’s BBC news investigation into housing benefit discrimination shows that the lettings industry as a whole has not caught up since the landmark ‘No DSS’ court rulings were published in the summer.
Too many agents are choosing to behave in this way, because they think they can get away with it.
But dig a little deeper into the BBC’s findings and it’s clear that some letting agents have moved slower than others when it comes to acting within the law.
The practice is particularly widespread on SpareRoom and OpenRent. More than 80% of the 59,000 listings that the BBC analysed on these websites were not open to benefits claimants. This is significantly higher than the proportion of ‘No DSS’ listings found on Zoopla and Rightmove.
Shelter will carry on fighting until discriminatory practices are stamped out for good. To join the fight, sign up here.
18 December 2020: BBC investigation highlights property sites continuing to exclude renters receiving benefits
Today the BBC have published an investigation showing that housing benefit discrimination continues to be rife within the private rented sector.
The BBC have found that leading UK property websites are hosting tens of thousands of rental listings that exclude renters on benefits, with OpenRent and Spare Room named the worst offenders.
Earlier this year, Shelter fought and won two legal cases which proved beyond doubt that housing benefit discrimination is unlawful. These landmark victories were the first nail in the coffin for ’No DSS’.
But as this BBC investigation shows, the lettings industry has not caught up. Many landlords and letting agents are yet to heed the warning and still think they can get away with baseless and blatant discrimination.
Now is the time for letting agents and landlords to do better. They must sit up and pay attention to these rulings and make sure they are acting within the law. Read more about Shelter’s reaction to today’s investigation.
9 September 2020: Stephen’s huge win in the battle against DSS discrimination makes the headlines
Today we shared the news that Stephen Tyler had won his legal trial against housing benefit discrimination, another huge step forward in the battle to end DSS discrimination for good.
It’s been a long road for Stephen. His family lost their home in February 2018 after they asked the landlord to make some disability adaptations to their home, and were served with a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice.
When looking for a suitable new home to rent, Stephen was told by a letting agent that it was ‘company policy’ to refuse to rent to people who receive housing benefit, despite him having a clean rental record and having always paid his rent on time.
From talking about his experiences of DSS discrimination and how it has impacted him on live TV, to heading up our campaign to tell online letting agent OpenRent to stop discriminating against renters who receive housing benefit, Stephen has played such an important role in our campaign to #EndDSSDiscrimination.
When news broke of Stephen’s win in court it was understandably big news and was covered in several major news outlets.
In case you missed it, here’s the headlines. Stephen’s court case was covered in The Guardian, The Mirror, The Express, ITV, Birmingham Mail among others. Follow the links to read some of the news coverage.
9 September 2020: UK court rules ‘No DSS’ unlawful for the second time
Two months ago, we shared the news of a landmark court ruling declaring housing benefit discrimination unlawful, marking a huge breakthrough for our End DSS Discrimination campaign.
Yesterday, Stephen Tyler won a full legal trial against housing benefit discrimination at Birmingham County Court, proving yet again that blanket bans against people receiving housing benefit are unlawful.
Supported by Shelter, Stephen, who is disabled, successfully proved ‘No DSS’ discrimination is unlawful and in breach of the Equality Act, after he was barred from viewing properties advertised by a Birmingham-based estate agent purely on the grounds of receiving housing benefit.
This win proves yet again that blanket bans against people on housing benefit are unlawful because they overwhelmingly bar women and disabled people like Stephen, who are more likely to need help with their rent, from finding a safe home.
17 August 2020: Bristol renters deliver some home truths about DSS discrimination in the city
As part of Shelter Bristol’s Home Truths campaign, a mural has appeared on Jamaica Street this week created by renters across the city who are speaking out about the reality of renting in Bristol.
From unaffordable rents to disrepair and the threat of eviction, they’re highlighting the issues they’re facing on a daily basis. High on the list of issues that Bristol renters want to see addressed was discrimination.
“No housing benefit.. no pets.. no children..”, does anything on that list look familiar to you? If you live in Bristol and want to join the campaign then team of renters leading it are inviting people to come down and check out the mural for a ‘Share your Home Truths’ renters’ event from 2pm on Thursday 27 August. If you’re in town, pop down for a coffee and a chat.
11 August 2020: What can you do if you have faced DSS discrimination?
This week Shelter solicitor Rose Arnall who led the historic ‘no DSS’ court case writes for The Big Issue about the case and why it was necessary to fight discrimination in the courts. She also offers advice on what you can do if you’re facing DSS discrimination while searching for a home.
“If you’re a housing benefit tenant and you’re being turned away from properties you can afford, the first thing to do is write a formal email or letter to the agent. Ask them to reconsider your application in light of the court judgment and remind them that DSS discrimination is unlawful. Make your suitability clear by listing your rental history, ability to afford the rent and references.”
At Shelter we’ve created a template letter that you can use to challenge a blanket refusal of a viewing or tenancy because you receive housing benefit. You can download it here, edit it to fit your personal situation and send it to the letting agent.
23 July 2020: No Pets, no smokers… no DSS?
Shelter solicitor Rose Arnall and Garden Court Chambers barrister Tessa Buchanan who led the landmark ‘no DSS’ court case write for Legal Action Group about the case and why it spells the beginning of the end for DSS discrimination. Click here to find out what they have to say.
21 July 2020: Tenants’ unions react to news of ‘no DSS’ court win
The huge strides forward we’ve made in the fight against DSS discrimination wouldn’t have been possible without the work of grassroots groups and tenants’ unions who have also been campaigning on this issue for years. We want to celebrate this moment alongside them.
Tenants’ unions Oxford Tenants Union and ACORN are two of those who’ve campaigned tirelessly against DSS discrimination faced by their members. They’ve shared their reactions to news of Jane’s landmark court case:
Oxford Tenants Union are really pleased to hear the amazing news that ‘No DSS’ policies have been recognised as discriminatory and unjust. This is one big step forward in making the rental sector fairer for all and we hope to see landlords and agencies still operating NO DSS policies being dealt with harshly and prosecuted for such immoral and unlawful practices. This gives much needed power in fighting for and with tenants being discriminated against in this wayOxford Tenants Union
ACORN welcomes the recent news that ‘No DSS’ tenancy bans have been ruled unlawful and applauds the organised tenants that have campaigned against these discriminatory policies over the years. As a community union, many of our members have been kept out of homes because of these discriminatory practices. Along with Shelter and other organisations, ACORN has campaigned against ‘No DSS’ policies for a number of years now. Something we often heard from landlords and letting agents was that the buy-to-let mortgage policies of some banks tied their hands, not allowing them to let to people who claimed benefits. So we set out to change this with out ‘Yes DSS’ campaign. Through member -led collective action and protests, we forced TSP and then the RBS group to drop these clauses. No small victory for the many renters and people claiming benefits in this country! Whilst this court ruling is extremely welcome news, and we celebrate with and applaud Shelter for the work they put into this fight, there is still lots of work to be done in both the private and social rented sectors.ACORN
16 July 2020: ‘No-DSS’ ban: Tenant Rosie Keogh ‘right all along’
Mum of one Rosie Keogh took legal action against a lettings agency that refused to consider her as a tenant because she was on benefits in 2018. Shelter supported Rosie through her legal claim where she argued the agents’ refusal amounted to indirect discrimination.
Rosie was the first person to win compensation for the discrimination she faced due to a letting agent’s ‘No DSS’ policy and her victory was the catalyst for Shelter’s End DSS Discrimination campaign.
Responding to this week’s news of the ‘No DSS’ court ruling, Rosie said
‘It’s long overdue’. ‘I knew I was right all along; it was just convincing other people because it was such a new area of the law to explore. It’s been a very long road but we’re finally here, it’s long overdue.’
It’s thanks to the determination and bravery of people like Rosie and Jane that we’re able to make such momentous steps forward in the fight against discrimination. You can read more about what Rosie had to say here.
16 July 2020: Making the headlines
On Tuesday there was a BIG win against the discrimination faced by renters who receive housing benefit when looking for a home. A landmark court ruling declared it unlawful.
Understandably this was big news, with the momentous ruling given plenty of coverage across the media. In case you missed it, here’s the headlines. The story was covered in The Guardian, BBC News Online, Women’s Hour, The Telegraph, The Sun, The Express, The Metro, Sky News, The I, Inside Housing, Times Radio, Stylist Magazine, The New Statesman and The Big Issue, as well as BBC Radio 1, BBC News Breakfast, BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast, BBC Asian Network, BBC Radio London, BBC Radio Manchester: Drive, BBC Radio York, BBC Radio Norfolk, BBC Radio 2: Jeremy Vine, BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Radio Humberside, LBC Radio and TalkRadio.
14 July 2020: We’re trending on Twitter
We’ve been inundated with comments and support today for the momentous legal win in our campaign to End DSS Discrimination.
Look, we’re trending!
14 July 2020: NRLA responds to ‘No DSS’ court ruling
Following the landmark ‘No DSS’ court ruling, the National Residential Landlords Association has reminded landlords that they should not operate blanket policies that discriminate against tenants receiving housing benefit.
Chris Norris, Policy Director for the NRLA said
‘No landlord should discriminate against tenants because they are in receipt of benefits. Every tenant’s circumstance is different and so they should be treated on a case by case basis based on their ability to sustain a tenancy.’
14 July 2020: Discrimination and ‘No DSS’: Nearly Legal’s take on the landmark ruling
Prominent housing lawyer Giles Peaker shares his take on today’s landmark court ruling and what it means for our campaign to end DSS discrimination. You can read it here.
14 July 2020: Charity sector celebrates ‘No DSS’ win
Lots of other charities have joined in the celebrations today as news broke of the landmark legal victory against housing benefit discrimination. Young Women’s Trust, Crisis, The Children’s Society, Homeless Link and Generation Rent were just some of the organisations to share messages of support on social media and highlight the difference the ruling will make to the people they support.
14 July 2020: Politicians show their support for an end to housing benefit discrimination following landmark court ruling
Political leaders have come out in force today to show their support for an end to unjust and unlawful ‘no DSS’ policies after receiving news of the landmark court ruling. MPs from across the house spoke up in support of the ruling, with more than 30 parliamentarians celebrating the news on Twitter.
Work and Pensions Minister Will Quince MP responded to the ruling, saying
‘everyone, benefit recipient or otherwise, deserves access to a safe and secure home. This judgement, alongside other cross-Government work, shows a positive shift towards the end of ‘No DSS’ discrimination.’
Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire added
‘…there will be many people who will be faced with looking for a new home in the private rented sector this Autumn. With this in mind, this landmark ruling must help to protect those people from discrimination by some rogue landlords refusing to take them on as tenants. The Government needs to ensure that this finding will be properly enforced as an end to this discrimination and disseminated to all relevant landlords and organisations in order to protect people from losing their home.’
14 July 2020: Jane shows bravery and determination in taking on this case
Today’s legal victory wouldn’t have been possible without the bravery and determination of Shelter client Jane* in challenging the discrimination she faced. Jane turned to Shelter for help when a letting agent refused to rent any properties to her because of a company policy not to accept tenants receiving housing benefit.
Jane is a hard-working single mum who lives with a disability. She had rented privately for 10 years, always paying her rent in full and on time, and has great references from her former landlords. When her landlord served her with a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notice, she needed to find a new home. She saw a suitable affordable property and applied to rent it, but the agents refused to consider her application, telling her that “for years” they “have had a policy of not accepting housing benefit tenants”. She and her children were left homeless as a result.
Jane told us
“I hope I’ll have helped people who aren’t able to be as determined as me. I’m like a dog with a bone. It’s the principle. It’s completely unfair to treat people like this, and I hope this will prove that letting agents can’t do this and prove they can’t discriminate.”
We’re saying a big thank you to Jane for her courage and you can too. Watch the video below to see messages of support for Jane from Shelter staff and activists, show your support for Jane by adding a frame to your Facebook and Twitter page, and add your name to the giant thank you card we’re making for Jane.
* The name of our client has been changed at her request; Jane is a pseudonym.
14 July 2020: Our win in the courts
Today’s landmark ruling is the win in the courts that we need to end DSS discrimination for good.
Shelter has been fighting to end DSS discrimination for nearly two years and we have been involved in several other ‘no DSS’ cases. These all settled at an early stage, with each letting agent agreeing to change their practices and offering apologies and compensation to our clients.
We’ve been really pleased to see the changes that these individual letting agents have made, but to bring about widespread change across the private rented sector and be able to help others who have experienced housing benefit discrimination in the future, we wanted a judge to make a formal ruling on a case. That’s the difference with Jane’s case, it’s the first time a UK court has fully considered a case like this and declared it unlawful to discriminate against someone because they receive housing benefit.
To find out more about what’s happened today and why it matters, watch the video below from Rose Arnall, the Shelter solicitor who led the case and read our blog post about the ruling.
14 July 2020: Shelter CEO Polly Neate and lawyer Rose Arnall interviewed by Radio 4 about ‘No DSS’ court ruling
Our Chief Executive Polly Neate and Shelter lawyer Rose Arnall spoke to Radio 4’s Women’s Hour this morning to discuss the landmark ‘No DSS’ court judgement.
Want to know more about the case and what it means? You can listen to Polly and Rose’s interview here.
14 July 2020: Breaking news: ‘No DSS’ letting bans ‘ruled unlawful’ by court
This morning the BBC broke the news of our momentous ‘no DSS’ court ruling, highlighting how a judge has ruled that blanket bans on renting properties to people on housing benefit are unlawful and discriminatory.
This judgement sends a huge signal to letting agents and landlords that they must end these practices and do so immediately. You can read more about the story on BBC News Online.
14 July 2020: Landmark court ruling declares housing benefit discrimination is unlawful
Today we have received official confirmation of a landmark court ruling declaring housing benefit discrimination unlawful.
At the historic hearing at York County Court involving Shelter client Jane*, ‘no DSS’ discrimination was declared unlawful, meaning letting agents and private landlords will have to drive out old discriminatory practices for good.
District Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark confirmed that rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit is unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability and contrary to sections 19 and 29 of the Equality Act 2010.
This court ruling has confirmed what we have been arguing that anyone who seeks to exclude renters receiving housing benefit is not just acting unjustly but unlawfully too.
We know the ’no DSS’, ‘no benefits’ and ‘no Universal Credit’ policies are widespread and that what Jane experienced is not a one-off occurrence. A 2020 YouGov survey that 63% of private landlords either operate an outright ban on letting to tenants receiving housing benefit or say they prefer not to let to this group.
But this ruling means that letting agents and private landlords will have to cease these discriminatory practices for good so that renters who receive housing benefit are no longer barred from renting any privately rented properties.
* The name of our client has been changed at her request; Jane is a pseudonym.
24 June 2020: DSS discrimination in the time of coronavirus
We know that discrimination against renters who receive housing benefit has long been preventing people from finding a safe home. But what impact is the coronavirus pandemic having on DSS discrimination?
We’ve been speaking to thousands of renters about the challenges they’ve been facing during coronavirus. From the stories we’ve heard, we’re concerned that there will be a significant increase in housing benefit discrimination in the coming months – and this comes on top of the existing housing emergency, and the job losses, debt and insecurity that the pandemic is causing.
In our latest Shelter blog we explore the links between coronavirus and housing benefit discrimination and explain why we’ll be doubling up our efforts to end housing benefit discrimination for good. Click here to find out more.
11 May 2020: Housing Minister Luke Hall says housing benefit discrimination has no place in a modern or fair housing market
Today, Housing Minister Luke Hall reaffirmed the government’s commitment to end housing benefit discrimination.
‘It is extremely worrying when we see these types of blanket bans against tenants who receive housing support. That has absolutely no place in a modern or fair housing market. As the single largest payer of rents in the country, the government want to ensure that prospective tenants who receive housing support are not dismissed out of hand. That is completely inappropriate.’
11 May 2020: Landlord not happy that I’m applying for housing benefit
This week we saw a discussion on Mumsnet where a user explained that they told their landlord they had applied for housing benefit and the landlord made it clear they were not happy about it.
Housing benefit is acting as a life raft for people struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and it’s right that people can access support. So here’s a timely reminder that if letting agents or landlords continue to discriminate against those receiving housing benefit, they risk legal action and a hefty fine.
We have a guide for letting agents and landlords to help them comply with equality law and make sure they are not discriminating against people who receive benefits.
16 April 2020: ‘No DSS, no children’ – Anna’s discrimination story
Anna works at Young Women’s Trust as a Services and Participation Intern. Outside of work, she’s active in her community and runs a group for Spanish mums and children in Croydon (Madres de Croydon).
When Anna became pregnant, she and her partner were thrown in at the deep end. They were starting a family and needed to find a place to call home. As Anna begun her search, it quickly became apparent that every flat she was able to afford specifically mentioned that they wouldn’t accept ‘DSS tenants’ or children.
In a guest blog for Shelter, Anna explains the impact that housing benefit discrimination has had on her and her family, and what she thinks needs to happen to end it for good. Thank you to Anna for her bravery in speaking out and highlighting our campaign.
6 April 2020: A look behind the scenes of our campaign to end housing discrimination
Today, The Guardian published a behind the scenes look at our campaign to End DSS Discrimination.
Read on to find out more about the work our Strategic Litigation team are doing to challenge the policies and practices of letting agents, landlords, lenders and insurance providers to create a fairer housing market for people receiving housing benefit.
16 March 2020: Letting agent Rush, Witt and Wilson accept and endorse our letting agent guide
Another step forward in our campaign to End DSS Discrimination as letting agent Rush, Witt and Wilson accept and endorse our letting agent best practice guide.
After we brought to their attention that one of our clients had been turned down for a property they were advertising, simply because they receive housing benefit, Rush Witt and Wilson said: ‘You have our guarantee that we will refrain from all forms of unlawful direct and indirect discrimination, assess all prospective tenants’ suitability to rent a property on a case by case basis and not exclude tenants or make unsubstantiated assumptions or judgements about them based on the source of their income.’
Our letting agent best practice guide sets out what letting agents need to do to make sure their business does not discriminate against people who receive housing benefit.
8 March 2020: Meet the inspiring women taking on DSS discrimination in the courts – and winning!
It’s International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #EachforEqual –which is all about challenging stereotypes, fighting bias, and broadening our perceptions. To mark the occasion, we’d like you to meet three women who are doing just that: they’re taking on DSS discrimination in the courts – and winning.
5 March 2020: Amanda shares her story
Amanda is another of the tenants who joined us in writing to OpenRent, calling on them to end DSS discrimination on their website.
In a guest blog, Amanda shares a very personal take on our campaign. Thanks to people like Amanda – who challenged the DSS discrimination she faced first-hand – our campaign is stronger. Please take a moment to have a read of her story.
5 March 2020: The Property Ombudsman responds to ‘No DSS’ legal victories
Today, the Property Ombudsman has responded to the legal victories of Emma and Amanda, who both won out-of-court settlements against ‘No DSS’ letting agents, by issuing a reminder to its member agents of their obligations not to discriminate.
Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said: ‘Whilst rental properties are investments for landlords, they are homes for tenants. To be excluded from a significant portion of the homes available simply because you are in receipt of Housing Benefits cannot be considered as treating consumers equally.’
2 March 2020: 5,000 Shelter supporters back tenants call for OpenRent to end DSS discrimination
OpenRent have provided a statement in response to Stephen’s article in The Mirror. Stephen is one of the tenants who wrote to OpenRent last month, but we’re still waiting to hear anything back from OpenRent…
5,000 Shelter supporters have now signed the open letter in solidarity with the group of tenants receiving housing benefit who wrote to them to protest DSS discrimination. Help us keep the pressure on OpenRent to reply and add your name to the letter.
1 March 2020: Stephen, one of the tenants who wrote to OpenRent, shares his experience of DSS discrimination
Stephen, one of the tenants who wrote to OpenRent last month calling on them to end DSS discrimination on their site, has shared his story with The Mirror.
After an accident left Stephen with life-changing injuries, he was evicted for being disabled. Then he was forced to separate from his family and live in his car for six months when his applications to rent other properties were rejected by other landlords because he receives benefits.
It’s thanks to the bravery of people like Stephen that the campaign to End DSS Discrimination is being highlighted. There’s no excuse for letting agents and landlords to blindly discriminate against good tenants just because they receive some housing benefit. Read more about Stephen’s story.
27 February 2020: No DSS is trending on Twitter
No DSS has been trending on Twitter today. If letting agents and landlords continue to blindly discriminate against those receiving housing benefit, they risk legal action and a hefty fine, so it’s great to see our message getting out there.
27 February 2020: Landlord Helena on how to avoid being fined thousands for DSS discrimination
So, your letting agent advised you that renting your property to people on DSS is a bad idea? Well, they are wrong. This is actually discrimination and it’s unlawful.
In court, the responsibility of following such advice falls at the feet of the landlord. So, with recent cases showing that landlords could be on the receiving end of an eye-watering £13,000 bill as a result, landlord Helena explains how landlords can avoid being fined for DSS discrimination. Read Helena’s advice here.
27 February 2020: Legal victories over ‘No DSS’ letting agents
The battle against DSS discrimination intensifies following news that there have been two more legal victories over ‘No DSS’ letting agents.
Backed by Shelter, Amanda Staples and Emma Loffler both won out-of-court settlements against letting agents using ‘No DSS’ policies on the grounds of indirect discrimination.
In Amanda’s case, the letting agent agreed to write a public letter of apology and to pay £3,000 compensation and the £10,000 legal costs. The agent in Emma’s case also issued a public letter of apology and paid £3,500 compensation and £2,500 towards legal costs.
26 February 2020: BBC Radio 4 interviews Shelter CEO about the risk of legal action over ‘No DSS’
Today our Chief Executive, Polly Neate, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Money Box about our campaign to End DSS Discrimination.
Polly’s message was clear: not only is ‘No DSS’ discrimination outdated and grossly unfair, it’s also unlawful under the Equality Act. This is because it overwhelming impacts women and disabled people, who are more likely to need support paying their rent.
Letting agents and landlords must treat potential tenants fairly on a case by case basis. If letting agents and landlords blindly discriminate against those receiving housing benefit or implement blanket bans, they risk legal action and a hefty fine. Listen to Polly’s interview here.
21 February 2020: A closed door at OpenRent?
It’s been a week since we published an open letter to OpenRent. We’re asking OpenRent to end DSS discrimination on their site and to meet with the group of tenants receiving housing benefit who wrote to them. These tenants would like to tell OpenRent about their experiences of ‘DSS not accepted’ adverts on the site, and what they think can be done to improve the situation for everyone using OpenRent.
Yet one week on from publishing the letter, we still haven’t heard anything… Will you send them a reminder that we’re waiting to hear back from them? Click here to share a message with OpenRent on Twitter.
12 February 2020: Good tenants locked out of thousands of properties on OpenRent
Today we published an open letter to OpenRent from a group of tenants receiving housing benefit. They’re calling on OpenRent to stop allowing ‘DSS not accepted’ adverts on their site and to end DSS discrimination. These tenants would like to be OpenRent customers but they’re locked out of thousands of the properties available on the website simply because they receive housing benefit.
OpenRent says their platform is the place that good landlords go, but two-thirds of the landlords on their site are discriminating against people who receive housing benefit. And they say they’re the site where landlords meet good tenants, so does that mean people receiving housing benefit are not good tenants?
Will you join us in telling OpenRent that we all deserve access to safe, affordable homes? Click here to read, sign, and share the letter.
10 February 2020: 5 steps letting agents need to take to avoid DSS Discrimination
Today we’ve published a simple guide for letting agents that sets out what they need to do to make sure their business does not discriminate against people who receive benefits.
We know that ‘no DSS’ bans make it difficult for tenants receiving benefits to find a home – even if they can afford the rent. Tenants say bans make them feel like second-class citizens, and some people even become homeless as a result.
These bans are often unlawful and can leave letting agents at risk of being sued. But Shelter’s guide helps letting agents to comply with equality law. You can read and share our guide here.
21 January 2020: BIBA put tackling DSS discrimination front and centre in 2020 manifesto
Some landlords claim that they cannot accept tenants in receipt of benefits because of a condition in their insurance policy. However, by surveying their brokers, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) have been able to demonstrate that cover is available, with hundreds of brokers able to place buildings and contents insurance for landlords wishing to let their properties to tenants in receipt of benefits.
At the launch of their 2020 manifesto, ‘Access’, in Parliament last night, BIBA made commitments to help landlords better access insurance for tenants in receipt of housing benefit. They also committed to work with government and credit scoring agencies to address barriers tenants receiving benefits can come up against when going through credit checks.
BIBA recently conducted a survey of its members, revealing that 58% of their brokers can arrange landlord’s rent protection insurance for landlords renting to tenants claiming benefits at very little or no extra cost. Finding the right insurance is up to the landlord, and is readily available and affordable through BIBA’s free Find a Broker service.
20 January 2020: Enfield Council called to lead the way in tackling DSS discrimination
This morning in Parliament, the Enfield Poverty and Inequality Commission published a series of key recommendations for tackling poverty in the borough. The first is for Enfield to become the first council in the UK to end discrimination by letting agents and landlords against people receiving housing benefit.
Enfield can lead the way. Shelter strongly endorses the call for Enfield to take a stand against unlawful DSS discrimination in the borough. In doing so, Enfield would be a model for the rest of London and the country as a whole.
3 October 2019: Government guidance clarification
Today we’re celebrating another win: the Competition and Markets Authority have updated the Government Guidance – Consumer protection law for lettings professionals is now to include clarification in relation to DSS discrimination.
The new guidance states: ‘The inclusion of housing benefit claimants as an example does not justify or excuse letting agents or property portals having blanket bans in place against those on housing benefit. In March 2019, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced plans to look at letting adverts which potentially discriminate against would-be tenants on housing benefit and made clear these should end. In light of this, the CMA would be concerned if terms that specify that a property cannot be occupied by a person in receipt of housing benefit are currently being included in any new contracts.’
9 August 2019: The Mortgage Lender win
The Mortgage Lender today announced that they too have removed all ‘no DSS’ restrictions from their mortgages. Although not a huge household name, it’s another great win for the campaign! We now know of only two tiny lenders that still have these restrictions.
Less than half (45%) of landlords have a mortgage on any of the homes they let out (The Shelter/You Gov, 2017 Private renters survey), for those that do, we know of only two very small lenders that still have these restrictive clauses, for those minority that do still have restrictive clauses our view (backed by independent barristers) is that they would most likely be legally unenforceable (pursuant to s.142 Equality Act 2010) so any concerned landlords should approach their existing lender for advice.
22 July 2019: Ministerial visit
Today Will Quince, Minister for Family and Housing Support, visited our Hackney hub to discuss tackling DSS discrimination.
Minster for Family and Housing Support @willquince met with @Shelter today and discussed their #EndDSSdiscrimination campaign among other topics including how people experiencing homelessness can get help through Universal Credit pic.twitter.com/AI21PzTW69
— DWP Press Office (@dwppressoffice) July 22, 2019
19 July 2019: Pepper Money drop DSS restrictions
Pepper Money today announced that they are removing all restrictive ‘No DSS’ terms from their Buy to Let mortgages. Once all of the big lenders changed their ways, the smaller banks have followed. ‘Restrictive mortgage terms’ should no longer be accepted as an excuse without evidence!
15 July 2019: Melanie Onn MP calls out portals
In a piece for the Times Red Box, Melanie Onn, MP for Grimsby, has called on property portals to take responsibility and remove discriminatory adverts. The article calls for Rightmove, OpenRent and Spareroom to follow the example set by Zoopla and clean up their act.
'DSS discrimination creates a hostile environment for would-be renters and severely limits their access to an already strained housing market.' #EndDSSdiscrimination@OnnMel says it's time for portals, such as @OpenRent, to take some responsibility: https://t.co/qqHaXWBEKj
— Shelter (@Shelter) July 15, 2019
11 June 2019: Downing Street round table
In another campaign milestone, Housing Minister Heather Wheeler led a No.10 round table on housing benefit discrimination. Industry bodies and companies from the mortgage, insurance, lettings, landlord and property portal sectors were all in attendance. Commitments to end discrimination were reaffirmed – any organisations still ignoring the issue risk being left behind.
It's great to see the commitment from heads of industry and Ministers to banning DSS Discrimination. Thanks to our supporters, our #EndDSSDiscrimination campaign has been pushed to the top of the government's agenda and into @10DowningStreet.@HeatherWheeler @willquince https://t.co/RaQN8IC2E8
— Shelter (@Shelter) June 12, 2019
11 June 2019: Metro Bank win
Metro Bank are the latest lender to drop mortgage restrictions on renting to tenants receiving benefits. Every major bank has now committed to end housing benefit discrimination. Just a handful of minor lenders remain…
17 May 2019: Normalising prejudice
Housing campaigner Philippa Lalor has blogged for Metro Online about her experience of using Open Rent to find a home. She describes how adverts which discriminate against people who receive benefits normalise prejudice and create a bad user experience.
15 May 2019: ITV London investigate
ITV London News have investigated DSS discrimination in the capital, making mystery shopping calls to 50 letting agents. Depressingly, unlawful discrimination was rife and between them, the agents only had four properties available to tenants receiving housing benefit. One agent summed up this prejudice, describing a landlord’s approach by saying: ‘Even if you were the Pope and you were on benefits, she wouldn’t rent to you.’
27 April 2019: Shelter vs Open Rent
Shelter’s Director of Campaigns, Greg Beales, spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Money Box about the campaign. Debating the issue with a representative from Open Rent, it highlighted the vast number of discriminatory adverts on their website, all of which are in breach of the Equality Act.
24 April 2019: Select Committee hearing
A group of MPs sat down to hear evidence on DSS discrimination from voices across the lettings industry. This was a monumental event, and we were front and centre to witness it alongside some passionate Shelter campaigners. Watch the highlights below or see the full session here.
20 April 2019: Victory for London Renters Union
Our allies, London Renters Union, stood up for a renter receiving benefits, who was pressured into paying £5,000 up front to rent a property. After almost a year of campaigning, they secured a full refund from the letting agent. The case is a reminder that DSS discrimination restricts choice, so can force renters into highly exploitative situations.
18 April 2019: Tzelem blog on DSS discrimination
Rabbis from social justice group Tzelem marked Pesach by blogging about housing benefit discrimination. They ask: ‘How is it that in one of the richest countries of the world in 2019, we tolerate discriminatory practices that deny large numbers of people their own homes?’
17 April 2019: Small moves by Rightmove
Following pressure from hundreds of campaigners, the property portal made a step in the right direction, signalling their intention to ban some ‘no DSS’ adverts from their website. However, they’ve left a loophole allowing some discriminatory advertising to continue. Read our take on the news here. In summary; we urge them to be bolder and to enforce a complete ban.
10 April 2019: #Wrongmove
Hundreds of Shelter supporters took to social media, campaigning for Rightmove to ban discriminatory adverts on from their website.
9 April 2019: Parliamentary question from Melanie Onn MP
Melanie highlighted in Parliament how online portals like Rightmove continue to allow adverts which discriminate against people receiving housing benefit. Heather Wheeler, Minster for Housing and Homelessness, responded by restating the Government’s intention to crack down on housing benefit discrimination.
1 April 2019: Co-op remove restrictions
The Co-operative Bank become the latest lender to remove ‘no DSS’ restrictions from buy-to-let mortgages, applying the change to all its brands including Platform and Britannia. Co-op join NatWest, Precise Mortgages and Kensington Homes, all of which have scrapped this type of discrimination in recent weeks. Only a handful of lenders remain left to lift these restrictions…
25 March 2019: Rightmove petition
Our friends at 38 Degrees have launched a petition calling on Rightmove to ban ‘no DSS’ adverts. Zoopla have already proved that this is possible, so please sign the petition today!
20 March 2019: Nationwide reminder
Nationwide were one of the first lenders to scrap ‘no DSS’ restrictions in buy-to-let mortgages. Today they announced plans to contact landlord customers to remind them that they are free to rent to whoever they choose. It’s great to see Nationwide provide this clarity to customers. Other lenders should follow their lead.
18 March 2019: Confusion…
56% of mortgage brokers surveyed by the Financial Reporter were not confident in knowing which lenders would allow a client to rent to tenants who received benefits. This confusion could result in landlords turning renters receiving benefits away, in the mistaken belief that their mortgage prevents letting to them. All mortgage providers without benefit restrictions should provide absolute clarity to landlords and brokers, to avoid further misunderstandings.
15 March 2019: Victory!
We’re celebrating a major win today as Zoopla announced that it is banning ‘no DSS’ adverts. It’s a massive step forward, so well done to Zoopla for leading the property portal pack. Time for the rest of the industry to follow…
15 March 2019: Successful legal challenges
In addition to public campaigning, we’ve also been helping Shelter clients who’ve experienced discrimination to legally challenge the perpetrators. Philippa Lalor successfully challenged five letting agents – read about her amazing wins here.
13 March 2019: Share your story with Rethink Mental Illness
Following on from their fantastic blog about why they’re supporting the campaign, Rethink now wants to hear from people who’ve experienced discrimination, especially those who are also living with mental illness.
12 March 2019: Rabbis join the campaign
We’re excited that rabbis from the social justice group Tzelem have joined the fight against DSS discrimination. They frequently see the consequences of excluding renters on housing benefit, so will be raising awareness of discriminatory practices at their synagogues and beyond.
1 March 2019: Government crackdown
Big, important news broke today, as the Government announced a crackdown on DSS discrimination. As a first step, they’ll be speaking to offenders, but also warned:
If the sector is unwilling to take action, the government will then explore all options to remove this practice
– Heather Wheeler, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, 1 March 2019
The stakes just got higher…
1 March 2019: NatWest win!
We’re delighted with NatWest’s big announcement today, that all landlords – both old and new – can now rent to people who receive housing benefit. This is a huge step forward in the fight against DSS discrimination. This victory wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless efforts of incredible landlord, Helena McAleer. We urge all lenders that still have benefit bans to follow NatWest’s lead and scrap them without delay.
21 February 2019: Rethink Mental Illness back us
We’re delighted that Rethink Mental Illness are joining the fight against DSS discrimination. The practice is locking some of their service users out of homes, often causing mental health to suffer as a result. Read Rethink’s blog on why they’re supporting the campaign.
20 February 2019: Prime Minister’s support
Charles Walker MP raised DSS discrimination at Prime Minister’s Questions today. In response, the Prime Minister confirmed that the government are working with us to tackle it.
You can also support our campaign to end DSS discrimination.
18 December 2018: NatWest submission
We made a submission to NatWest’s review of their buy-to-let mortgage policies. It’s available to read here. We’re eagerly anticipating the outcome of the review…
7 December 2018: Treasury questions
The Treasury has responded to three written parliamentary questions from Vicky Foxcroft MP, about buy-to-let mortgage restrictions on housing benefit tenants. You can read the questions and their response here. Disappointingly, they don’t see it as their problem…
24 November 2018: NatWest protest
Housing campaigners shut down branches of NatWest, as ACORN, Living Rent, and London Renters Union lead protests against the bank’s ban on landlords renting to people on housing benefit.
We’re outside @NatWest_Help in Stratford protesting their mortgage terms banning landlords from renting to people claiming housing benefit. Housing is bad enough already without discrimination renters on benefits face #EndDSSDiscrimination #YesDSS
— London Renters Union (@LDNRentersUnion) November 24, 2018
21 November 2018: Spotlight on lenders
As we eagerly await an update on NatWest’s promised review of their buy-to-let mortgage policies, Shelter Policy Officer, Rhea Newman has blogged about the wider issue of lenders preventing landlords from renting to people on benefits. She makes it clear that lenders need to learn from NatWest’s mistakes, and remove any discriminatory restrictions.
20 November 2018: Work & Pensions committee intervene
The Work & Pensions Select Committee has published correspondence with NatWest regarding their ‘no DSS’ mortgage clauses. We welcome their intervention and agree that regulation may be necessary if lenders don’t end discriminatory policies ASAP.
14 November 2018: Letting agent excuses
Following a London MP’s investigation into DSS discrimination in her constituency, Shelter Public Affairs Officer Ami McCarthy took an in-depth look at that the consistently negative responses from letting agents who were asked to explain their housing benefit policies.
14 November 2018: Big news from property portals
In response to Shelter and the National Housing Federation’s media story the previous week, Rightmove & Zoopla just announced that they’ve advised letting agents not to post ‘No DSS’ adverts on their websites. A great development, but will they go further and ban them outright?
8 November 2018: 1 in 10 adverts discriminate
DSS discrimination hit the news again, with the second part of Shelter’s joint investigation with the National Housing Federation into the practice making headlines. The new research discovered that 1 in 10 adverts on the property portal, Zoopla, excluded people on benefits.
7 November 2018: You & Yours
DSS discrimination featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours,’ with Helena McAleer, the landlord taking on NatWest, and Shelter’s Director of Campaigns Greg Beales joining the discussion. The issue of landlord insurance and restrictions on renting to people on housing benefit was raised, alongside the hot topic of discrimination by buy-to-let lenders.
4 November 2018: Petition launch
To keep the pressure up, Shelter launched a petition to Bridgfords, Dexters, Haart, Hunters, Fox & Sons, Ludlow Thompson and Your Move, calling on them to treat all renters fairly, by considering each individual on a case-by-case basis. You can sign the petition here.
3 November 2018: Second warning
Over last few weeks of October we sent a second round of letters to Bridgfords, Dexters, Haart, Hunters, Fox & Sons, and Your Move, reiterating Shelter’s asks for letting agents and offering to meet to discuss how they can stamp out DSS discrimination. Dexter’s and Hunters replies can be read here and here.
29 October 2018: NatWest commitment
NatWest responded to Shelter’s letter, to confirm that they’ll be conducting a full review of their polices. We’ll be holding them to account for this…
25 October 2018: Mayor’s question time
The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, condemned DSS discrimination at Mayor’s Question Time this evening, after hearing moving personal testimony from a disabled woman who has experienced it first hand
20 October 2018: RLA join the fray
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) announced that they’ve written to the Treasury Minister, urging an investigation & ban of buy-to-let mortgage clauses which prevent renting to people on housing benefit. A clear sign that the campaign is building momentum across the sector.
18 October 2018: Ludlow progress
Earlier this month, Ludlow Thompson wrote to us again. We’ve blogged about the encouraging progress they’ve taken to stop discrimination against renters receiving housing benefit, and wrote back to set out the practical steps that we’re asking all letting agents to follow to stamp it out completely. You can read Ludlow’s response here.
17 October 2018: Writing to Natwest
In response to Helena’s case, we’ve written to Natwest, asking for a full clarification on their buy-to-let mortgage terms.
15 October 2018: Landlord’s petition launches
Landlord Helena McAleer, has launched a petition calling on the government to stop banks discriminating against tenants on benefits. She was driven to do this after a shocking incident involving her buy-to-let mortgage provider, Natwest. who told Helena to evict her current tenant or face an expensive charge – because her tenant receives benefits. Helena’s worked hard to get her story in the papers and her campaign has been widely shared online. You can sign her petition here.
11 October 2018: The devastating impact of DSS discrimination
Stanley Harvey, Senior Advisor in Shelter services, blogs about the damage caused by discriminatory policies. It’s a powerful reminder of why this campaign is so important.
15 September 2018: Manchester protest
Manchester Tenant’s Union, and a coalition of other local groups, held a protest today outside a branch of Bridgfords in Manchester City Centre. The branch manager agreed to raise their concerns with head office.
12 September 2018: Phone calls
Since Ludlow Thompson’s head office didn’t respond to 1000s of phone calls and tweets, Shelter supporters began hitting the phones to call individual branches of Ludlow Thompson directly. Branch staff are being asked to pass on Shelter’s call to stamp out discriminatory practices.
11 September 2018: Some friendly legal advice…
To clear up confusion about DSS discrimination and the law, Shelter Policy Officer, Rhea Newman, & Shelter Solicitor Rose Arnall, published some advice for letting agents and landlords on avoiding discrimination.
23 August 2018: The blame game begins
The blame game got well and truly underway, as letting agents, landlords and buy-to-let mortgage lenders all attempt to shift the blame on each other.
According to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA):
Rents are paid in advance, whereas housing benefit is paid in arrears, and therefore with such a shortage of rental accommodation, landlords and agents will naturally choose a tenant who can pay the rent when it is due, rather than a tenant who is always a month in arrears.
We have called on government time and time again to resolve this problem. But our calls have fallen on deaf ears.
To make the situation worse, many lenders also have a clause in their buy-to-let mortgage agreements which prevent landlords from letting to housing benefit tenants. This situation does not exist because of landlords or letting agents, it is a systemic problem caused by government and the banks.
And here’s a snapshot of the comments online:
22nd August 2018: Media splash and agents respond
Shelter published the full results of a joint investigation with the National Housing Federation into housing benefit discrimination. Most of the broadcast and print have media covered the story, social media’s exploded. Amongst the coverage landlord bodies agreed that blanket bans on people who receive housing benefit are wrong.
Responses from letting agents have varied; there’s been an encouraging response from Haart who outlined the immediate action they’d taken, and a strongly defensive denial from Your Move, which we don’t have permission to publish…
21 August 2018: Writing to the other offenders
We’ve written to the other agents that we mystery shopped, to outline the results of the investigation. Bridgford’s, Dexter’s, Haart, Hunters, Fox & Sons and Your Move all received letters.
19 August 2018: Taking to the streets
Shelter staff met outside the Finsbury Park branch of Ludlow Thompson this morning, to hand in a letter about housing benefit discrimination to the branch manager. Cue hurried phone calls to head office…
17 August 2018: Ludlow respond and campaign begins
Ludlow have written back, expressing surprise at the findings and denying that they discriminate against renters who receive housing benefit. We’ve responded with the full results of the investigation, and asked them to commit to some actions to prevent people on benefits from being turned away again.
The campaign launched publicly today and Shelter supporters have begun to email and Tweet Ludlow’s head office on mass.
16 August 2018: Writing to Ludlow Thompson
Prior to the launch of Shelter’s new campaign, we’ve written to Ludlow Thompson, to inform them that the investigation showed that 9 out of 10 branches appeared to have a ban against renters on housing benefit.