The chief executive of Hunters has told MPs there are 19 properties on its books which specify ‘No DSS’ - but this may be because of mortgage or insurance requirements.
Glynis Frew, speaking to the all-party Work and Pensions Select Committee, said some of the statements requiring No DSS were simply cut-and-pasted contracts that had been specified by landlords without necessarily accepting what that meant in practice.
In other cases, she said, the statement was included to satisfy lenders or insurers. Either way, she said her agency was investigating whether this could be removed from the remaining 19 advertisements.
“Without question most of us, agents and landlords, would want to be fair” she says, and that would mean removing the restriction.
However, Frew - as well as Your Move chief executive Helen Buck, also giving evidence to the committee - said that agents and landlords were both suffering obstacles in understanding the new Universal Credit and explaining it fairly to landlord clients.
At one point during proceedings Buck expressed surprise when some MPs told her they had quickly found ‘No DSS’ requests on Your Move listings; she said the revelation was "shocking" and "not acceptable” and she would investigate.
Both Buck and Frew emphasised to MPs that many landlords were small-scale with one, two or three properties only. Frew specifically said that whereas institutional landlords would make a profit of perhaps 35 to 40 per cent, small scale buy to let landlords would be enjoying profits of only 16 or 17 per cent.
For that reason, she said, it was unacceptable and simply wrong to expect them to carry arrears of up to £2,000 every few months if a tenant switched to Universal Credit, which often involves a long delay before payments come through.
Frew and Buck made it clear there were requirements which they wanted and which would do more good for the rental sector than additional laws added to the hundreds of piecemeal regulations currently impacting on landlords and agents.
Frew specifically said she wanted, firstly, all landlords as well as agents to be members of a redress scheme; secondly landlords should not be expected to risk debt because of Universal Credit arrears making it impossible for their tenants to pay rent on time; and thirdly, via the Lettings Industry Council, a new standard which would be advertised denoting that properties to let reached a certain habitable standard.
You can see a video recording of the committee session here.