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Agents who say 'No DSS tenants' may be acting unlawfully

Letting agents who act on landlords’ instructions to refuse tenants claiming benefits may be breaking the law.

A legal case recently found in favour of a tenant who won compensation from an agency that refused to consider her as a tenant.

The BBC says that Rosie Keogh, a cleaner and former paralegal, successfully argued that blanket bans on benefit claimants indirectly discriminated against women, especially single women.


This is because they are proportionately more likely to be claiming housing benefit than single men, according to official figures.

The incident started back in spring 2016 when an agent in the Kings Heath area of Birmingham declined Rosie as a tenant when she revealed that at least part of her rental payment would come via benefits.

“She had been living in the same property for 11 years with the rent being paid in full every time. After a letter of complaint was dismissed by the agents, the mother of one issued a claim for discrimination in the county court” the BBC says.

The story cites a survey of 1,137 private landlords for housing charity Shelter in 2017 which found that 43 per cent had an outright ban on letting to such claimants. A further 18 per cent preferred not to let to them.

Keogh was backed by Shelter in bringing the case, and a spokeswoman for the charity says: "By applying a blanket policy they [agents and landlords] are actually preventing good tenants from accessing the private rented sector. Women are more likely to be caring for children and therefore working part-time and are therefore more likely to top up their income by claiming housing benefit."

You can see the full story here.

  • Fed Up Landlord

    The key phrase here is "may be". This case is not a legal precedent. All that will happen is agents will phrase adverts differently.

  • Lenny White

    The Banks and Building Societies create the main problem through their lending criteria with the 'employed person' tag in their lending conditions. A Landlord then falls in breach of contract with the lender if the property is let to someone who works 16 hours a week with top up benefits. Catch 22 and who sits in the firing line?

  • icon

    Insurance cover too is often higher for 'DSS' tenants. As we vet tenants and inspect (where the landlord has agreed to fully managed) we don't get a lot of problems .... but our worst cases have always been 'DSS' tenants and have cost us time & money that we could not reclaim from anyone. In one case, the landlord (who had never been an investor before) immediately sold up once the tenant was gone and vowed never again to be a landlord. In that particular case the tenant also turned out to have previously undiagnosed mental difficulties, and was advised by the district council to remain in residence until evicted by bailiffs. I pointed out to social services that this standard anti-landlord approach did nobody any good in a mental health case like this, so they back tracked.

    The system of risky tenants having their rent benefits paid direct to the landlord or agent is totally flawed because, should the tenant commit benefits fraud, all payments can be recouped from the beneficiary (in this case the landlord or agent) for up to 7 years after the fraud!

    The system of deposits being promised by a council bond is fatally flawed for endless reasons.

    No wonder most decent landlords with nice rental homes only take on DSS with great reluctance.

  • icon

    Of course letting agents should not have a 'blanket' policy on this subject but state they will take their client's instructions on individual applicants, and the agent can refer the landlord to inspect the conditions of their insurance policy and mortgage deed to see if they are able to consider such applicants.


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