A lettings agency that told a prospective tenant it had a policy of not offering tenancies to housing benefit recipients has lost a test case.
Midlands agency Paul Carr told disabled Stephen Tyler of the policy, apparently preventing him from viewing potential rental policies and triggering the case which this week was heard at Birmingham County Court.
Supported by a Shelter solicitor, Tyler argued successfully that ‘No DSS’ discrimination was unlawful and in breach of the Equality Act.
The court was told that such a policy disproportionally affected disabled people, who are more likely to need some support with paying their rent. Shelter research showed that 45 per cent of private renters who claimed disability benefits also claimed housing benefit.
Her Honour Judge Mary Stacey told the court: “There is no doubt that there was a blanket policy that no one in receipt of housing benefit would be considered for the ... properties. It put the claimant and other disabled people at a particular disadvantage when compared to others.
“To be told simply, because of his benefit status, that he could not apply for three properties which were perfectly located for his children’s school, his GP and health needs, and extended family support, […] would be distressing.”
She went on to say: “We make a declaration that the defendant has unlawfully indirectly discriminated against the claimant by imposing a PCP [Provision, Criteria or Practice] that those in receipt of housing benefit could not apply to those three properties.”
According to a Shelter statement on the case, the Tyler family lost their home in February 2018 after they asked the landlord to make disability adaptations and the landlord responded by serving a Section 21 eviction notice.
This prompted Stephen Tyler to approach the agent for viewings. He had what Shelter has called “a clean rental record” and had always paid rent on time.
This is the second time a ‘No DSS’ policy has been confirmed as unlawful in a UK court. The first case was in July at York County Court.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, says of the latest ruling: “Shelter has been fighting ‘No DSS’ discrimination for the past two years because we know it pushes people to the brink of homelessness and leaves many feeling worthless. This win proves yet again that blanket bans against people on housing benefit are unlawful because they overwhelmingly bar women and disabled people like Stephen, who are more likely to need help with their rent, from finding a safe home.
“It’s senseless that people who can afford private rents are being forced into homelessness by blind prejudice. It’s now time for landlords and letting agents to do better; they must consider tenants fairly based on their ability to afford the rent – not where their income comes from. And Shelter will continue campaigning until ‘No DSS’ is fully stamped out.”