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Discrimination against housing benefit tenants is set to be banned

2-minute read

Mollie Millman

19 March 2019

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Some major players in the property market are helping to prevent discrimination against housing benefit tenants.

Until now, rental adverts have allowed landlords to specify whether they’re prepared to let tenants who are on benefits rent their properties.

The wording that’s been regularly used is ‘no DSS’, meaning ‘no Department of Social Security’, an old phrase used to describe people on benefits.

Housing benefit tenants welcome

However, property website Zoopla has confirmed that from next month it’ll ban the use of this terminology.

Charlie Bryant, Managing Director of Zoopla, said: “All tenants who are looking to rent a property deserve the chance to be fully assessed for their suitability and matched to a home that suits both their and the landlord’s circumstances.”

Nationwide Building Society also supports this way of thinking, as it allows landlords to use its buy-to-let mortgages on properties rented out to tenants on benefits.

Paul Wootton from Nationwide said: “Everyone should be able to access a safe and secure home suitable for their needs. The continued presence of ‘no DSS’ restrictions in the private rented sector is unfair and denies this right to a significant group of people.

“Nationwide does not put this type of restriction in its buy-to-let mortgages and we urge others – lenders, agents and landlords – to act now to change this outdated practice.”

What the government's saying

This comes ahead of a warning by the government that adverts specifying that a property will not be rented to tenants on housing benefit could be banned altogether.

It’s meeting representatives in the housing market – including landlord associations, tenant groups and mortgage providers – to clamp down on the discrimination.

The Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Heather Wheeler, said: “I will be meeting key stakeholders to tackle the practice of No DSS, to underline the need for immediate change.”

Government figures show that out of 4.5 million households living in private rental accommodation, 889,000 receive housing benefit to help pay their rent.

However, it said around half of landlords wouldn't be willing to let to tenants on housing benefit.

How will it affect landlords?

There are concerns that the government ban could see landlords’ arrears increase.

And there’s research to back up these concerns – figures from the Residential Landlords Association show the average amount owed by Universal Credit tenants in rent arrears increasing by half, from £1,600 in 2017 to almost £2,400 in 2018.

The Association’s Chris Town said: “Landlords should not refuse someone solely because they are on benefits, and should consider prospective tenants on a case by case basis. But with growing numbers of benefit claimants now reliant on the private rented sector we need to do more to give tenants and landlords greater confidence in the benefits system.

“This means building on positive changes already made by the Government by giving all tenants the right to choose if they want to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord.”

How do you feel about the government’s plans to ban landlords from refusing housing benefit tenants? Let us know in the comments below.

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