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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Agents warned by Ombudsman: Don’t discriminate on DSS claimants

The Property Ombudsman is warning agents not to discriminate against tenants through a No DSS or any similar policy.

Following the legal victories of two tenants winning out-of-court settlements against lettings agents, TPO has also confirmed that it will “consider” obtaining Assured Advice and strengthening its codes of practice to clearly prohibit No DSS clauses in rental advertisements.

TPO has issued a statement reminding agents of existing codes stating that they must:

1e treat consumers equally regardless of their race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender recognition, disability, pregnancy or maternity, or nationality. Unlawful discrimination includes giving less favourable treatment because someone is perceived to have one of these personal characteristics or because they are associated with a person with such a characteristic”

and

1f take special care when dealing with consumers who might be disadvantaged because of factors such as their age, infirmity, lack of knowledge, lack of linguistic or numeracy ability, economic circumstances, bereavement or do not speak English as a first language.”

In 2019, TPO handled 881 complaints in relation to agent’s general obligations, specifically relating to 1e and 1f of the Codes of Practice for Residential Letting Agents.  

The new statement from the Ombudsman’s offices says it recognises these are not all linked to No DSS cases but “the figure still highlights that approximately 17 per cent of all complaints last year were linked to some form of discrimination. For the avoidance of doubt, economic circumstances include tenants who are in receipt of benefits.”

TPO says it knows that some mortgage lenders and insurance providers specifically exclude tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit, in which case it would expect agents to evidence that and give an explanation to prospective tenants on an individual basis. 

TPO Katrine Sporle says: “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. Tenants’ perceptions that they have been unfairly discriminated against underpin the significant number of the complaints received.  

“TPO agrees that adverts which discriminate against would-be tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit should end. Making sure no one is excluded from applying for the home of their choice will go some way to reducing these complaints."

  • icon

    Will Katrine Sporle put her money where her mouth is, invest in a property and let it out to DSS tenants? She has no actual experience of the rental market. Typical "Those who can, do. Those who cannot, preach!".

    Luckily Benefit tenants cannot afford to rent any of my properties.

  • Matthew Payne

    One of the main reasons these tenants are rejected is the clawback system that penalises landlords and agents. Until such time as that is addressed, there will be no improvement. Clearly though depsite the fact that this point is raised again and again, it is ignored, by pretty much everyone other than those it affects. If there wasnt the label of a "DSS" tenant which I agree is not helpful anyway, would the government or TPOS expect a landlord or agent to accept a tenant who offers to pay the rent only on the understanding they may be forced to give it back at some point at their cost? Of course they wouldn't, so why are these tenants an exception?

    So they will ban the use of no DSS adverts, and what they incorrectly label and stigmatise as open discrimination. In the meantime, landlords and agents will simply have to comply and choose one of several dozen other possible legitimate reasons if they need to as to why those particular tenants applications are not acceptable and the current status quo will remain.

    It is not actually about rejecting tenants anymore though as the PRS is changing its dynamic under pressure from external influences. It is about choosing the best tenants in the current climate and with the tenant fees act and the aboliton of section 21 this will get worse. What are regarded by some as poorer quality tenants or even reasonably good tenants wont need to be rejected for any particular reason, they will simply be told the landlord chose to let the property to someone else - The "Alpha" tenant who represents as close to zero risk as possible.

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