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Guide for letting agents produced by … Shelter

Campaigning charity Shelter, which has been outspoken in its criticism of many letting agents in recent years, has now produced a guide aimed at the industry.

The focus of the guide is to prevent discrimination against housing benefit or Universal Credit recipients in the light of the spate of ‘No DSS’ messages on some private rental accommodation advertisements in the past two years.

Claims of the use of ‘No DSS’ or similar messages on advertisements have dropped off almost entirely; in 2019 the main portals all asked agents to ensure such messages were not contained on listings.


However, in its intro the Shelter guide says: “We'll show you what to do to make sure your business does not discriminate against people who receive benefits. ‘No DSS’ bans make it difficult for tenants receiving benefits to find a home – even if they can afford the rent. Tenants say bans make them feel like second-class citizens, and some people even become homeless as a result.”

Elsewhere in the guide agents are told that, in relation to tenants, “Don’t make assumptions about what they can afford” and later it claims: “Our legal view, backed by an independent law firm, is that it is against the law for letting agents and landlords to have blanket bans on letting to tenants who receive benefits.”

On references the guide says: “Character reference requests will discriminate against tenants who receive benefits if they always require an employer reference. You may find that the tenant can provide a reference from someone else, such as a previous landlord. Or they may have someone who a guarantor.”

In the staff training section, Shelter recommends that each agency branch should have at least one person who is an expert on benefits. 

The guide then says: “Staff should not make assumptions about people who receive benefits – 22 per cent of all private tenants receive housing benefit, and almost half are in work”; Shelter notes that the percentage it quotes is taken from the 2016-17 English Housing Survey.

You can see the guide for yourself here.

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    'Shelter recommends that each agency branch should have at least one person who is an expert on benefits.'
    And Shelter need to employ at least as many experts who have worked in the rental business so that a balanced and unbiased norm is created within this organisation and that those at the top of this bunch actually act accordingly.

  • icon

    How kind of Shelter. Perhaps agents could get together and produce a guide for charities on how not to be total knobheads when dealing with landlords and agents.

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    I guess eventually it will become illegal to obtain any kind of reference for a tenant and landlords will have to let anyone who wants a property to rent it regardless of whether they have the ability to pay or are deemed suitable for the property. People talk about a nanny state, I think we are becoming more like a police state.

  • jeremy clarke

    What a f*****g cheek, who do these overfunded, overpaid, out of touch idiots think they are advising us how to run our businesses? If we are into giving advice, my advice to government is stop listening to and stop funding this farcical "charity " immediately. My advice to shelter is " do what it says on the tin" SHELTER/HOUSE PEOPLE and leave agents and landlords alone!

  • PossessionFriendUK PossessionFriend

    'No Shelter' could offer to stand as Guarantor for tenants in receipt of benefit ( ha, ha, I hear you chuckle )
    Instead, they refer Tenant to their local Authority, who surprisingly, are not that particularly ken to do so either - wonder why ( probably same reason Landlords are cautious in renting to them )

  • Paul Singleton

    Which self respecting letting company is going to read a guide produced by Shelter on ‘How To Run Your Business’. Wow, I hope they’ve not produced many copies!

  • Matthew Payne

    Im not sure why they are postioning this with agents at all, it is the landlords decision alone as to what type of tenants they prefer, and they are perfectly entitled to make those choices whatever they are provided they are not in breach of statute, a comfortable affordability rating for one, which will vary from landlord to landlord. Would like to hear their independent legal firm go on record with the advice they have provided.


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