“No DSS” ruled unlawful. What this means for landlords and tenants

Happy couple with keys of new apartment

On 1 July 2020, York County Court ruled that “No DSS” letting bans are unlawful and discriminatory. In this weeks blog, we take a look at the ruling and how this may affect you as a benefit claimant and as a landlord.

 

What is “No DSS”?

“DSS” refers to the Department of Social Security (closed in 2001) which administered state benefits. 

In housing terms, when “No DSS” is used, it means that tenants who claim state benefits e.g. Universal Credit, housing benefit, etc will be rejected by the landlord/agent.

 

What happened in July 2020?

On 1 July 2020, a judge ruled that “rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of sex and disability”. She added that this was contrary to the Equality Act 2010.

It was ruled that this would be indirect discrimination because women and those with disabilities are more likely to receive housing benefit and, therefore, would largely be affected by a “No DSS” policy.

 

I am in receipt of benefits, how does this affect me?

This ruling means that it’s unlawful to be discriminated against the basis of whether you receive benefits. With the financial hardship that COVID-19 has brought, this ruling is welcomed for those who need benefits to help pay their rent and feel they can’t access housing.

 

I am a landlord, how does this affect me?

This case has ruled that having a blanket policy of refusing tenants who are in receipt of housing benefit is unlawful.

As a landlord/agent, if you continue to refuse to rent to housing benefit claimants, you risk legal action. You should ensure your listings reflect this.

Previously, insurers and mortgagors excluded tenants on benefits from landlord insurance policies and/or buy-to-let mortgages. Many have now stopped this practice but it is worth querying whether your policy still has this exclusion and asking whether this can be changed so you don’t void/breach your contract.

Zain Khushi

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