Rightmove has fallen in line with Zoopla and is banning the term ‘No DSS’ from its lettings agents’ listings from the end of April, while from next month it will have software that will automatically strip the term from any property details.
The portal is writing to all its letting agent advertisers asking them to remove the term by the end of this month, prior to the installation of the new software.
Rightmove tells the agents that ‘No DSS’ is in any case an old-fashioned term - the Department of Social Security went out of existence 18 years ago - and that agents should not in any case impose blanket bans on some kinds of tenants.
“If a landlord has a restriction that prevents them from letting to a person receiving benefits, the reason for the restriction should be included in the description of the listing. This could be by using a phrase such as ‘Unfortunately no housing benefit claimants can be considered due to a restriction in the landlord’s mortgage term’” the portal suggests.
It also adds in the letter that agents should let their landlord clients know that several mortgage lenders have recently revised their terms and conditions to ensure there is no ‘No DSS’ style restriction required when borrowers let their homes.
The portal has been in touch with both the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the Competition and Mergers Authority, to check on the legal and marketing issues, and promises to update letting agents in the near future.
Last month Zoopla banned ‘No DSS’ from all lettings listings.
Here is the Rightmove letter in full:
‘No DSS’ in lettings listings – an update from the government and action required
We wrote to you last week about the subject of including the term ‘No DSS’ in rental advertisements.
We believe all prospective tenants should have equal access to the widest possible selection of properties. There are currently discussions taking place within government around this topic, including those who say that not accepting tenants on benefits could amount to indirect discrimination. We will keep you updated on these discussions and any outcomes that may affect how you advertise properties.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said this week that they want to see an end to all No DSS type adverts, and we’ve let them know we’d welcome a conversation with them as soon as possible to discuss this.
In the meantime, we also asked the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) if there is any new guidance to follow. This department issue guidance on how to comply with consumer protection law.
What has the CMA said?
The CMA guidance states that all ‘material information’ should be communicated to prospective tenants when marketing a property. They have confirmed that in its guidance for lettings professionals on consumer protection law ‘material information’ includes ‘any restrictions on the type of tenant, (such as housing benefit claimants)’.
You can read more about the CMA’s guidance here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/319820/Lettings_guidance_CMA31.PDF
What you need to do now
In line with the CMA guidance your advertisements need to be clear and understandable to those people who aren’t going to be able to rent the property. You need to make sure that any restrictions you place on properties comply with the law.
We ask that you please review your Rightmove listings to consider the following:
· “No DSS” is an old term which many tenants don’t understand as the DSS was replaced in 2001, and so should not be used
· Agents should not impose blanket bans on tenants on housing benefit. If a landlord has a restriction that prevents them from letting to a person receiving benefits, the reason for the restriction should be included in the description of the listing. This could be by using a phrase such as ‘Unfortunately no housing benefit claimants can be considered due to a restriction in the landlord’s mortgage term’
· You can let your landlords know that in recent months some mortgage lenders, including NatWest, Nationwide and the Cooperative Bank, have announced changes to their policies and no longer restrict landlords in their mortgage terms.
How long do I have to make any changes?
We ask that you review your advertisements and make any necessary changes to your listings by the end of April. We realise this is additional work for you, but we want you to avoid any possibility of breaching the regulations.
To help, from May we will be introducing technology that will automatically strip out terms such as ‘No DSS’ from listings.