Activists from the Acorn renters' campaign group have held a protest outside a branch of Chancellors in Oxford.
The group says the event, held at the start of the long weekend, was the launch of a campaign “to end discrimination against renters on benefits in our city.”
A claim on Acorn’s Facebook page says: “We marched on these offices because we have strong reason to believe that they have refused to rent to potential tenants on Universal Credit and other housing benefits.”
It goes on: “‘No DSS’ policies have been repeatedly found to be unlawful by courts, violating the Equality Act 2010. They represent a brazen attack on the working class.
“But letting agents have been sneaky. Knowing that the most marginalised renters can’t take them to court individually, they turn people away by asking for six months rent upfront or decline without reason.”
The group goes on to claim that it’s campaigning “for the safety and dignity that we are all entitled to, by demanding Oxford’s letting agents sign our pledge to categorically end DSS discrimination.”
Chancellors told Letting Agent Today over the weekend: "We do not have a policy of No DSS, Universal Credit or other housing benefit across our business. We apologise if a customer or a member of Acorn has been left with this false impression. We would ask that whoever has been left with this impression contact us in order that we can investigate the cause and take necessary action so that it doesn’t happen again. At this point no one from Acorn has contacted us directly on the matter or responded to our communications sent directly to them, which clarify our policies and ask for information to enable us to investigate their concerns."
Acorn has frequently staged protests at agents’ offices in a handful of cities. Earlier this year two arrests were reported to have been made after police were called by an agent in High Wycombe where a large number of protestors attempted to gain entry.
Last month a lettings agency was found to have unlawfully discriminated against a tenant receiving benefits - the third in recent times. Worthing County Court declared that Michael Jones & Company unlawfully refused to show Hayley Pearce a potential rental property because she receives benefits.
According to campaigning charity Shelter, which took up the case on the tenant’s behalf, an agency employee told Pearce over the phone that people in receipt of benefits would not be acceptable to the landlord, without checking whether she could afford the rent.