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View Full Version : Is "No DSS tenants" unlawful discrimination?



MrsPop
10-09-2006, 16:02 PM
Hello.

I am writing on behalf of my disabled sister, who is having considerable difficulties in finding a place to rent because she is claiming DSS benefits. She has rented properties from private landlords in the past, where she has always paid the rent on time, kept the property in good order, and has generally never had any problems at all.

She has been searching for a new property to rent for herself for quite some months. But the problem she is facing is that landlords are turning her down as soon as they find out she is claiming DSS benefits. She is claiming incapacity benefit, as her disability unfortunately means that she is not able to go to work.

Firstly, I was wondering whether it is actually legal for landlords to state so clearly that they do not wish to let their properties to people claiming DSS benefits. I would have thought this counts as discrimination, especially where people like my sister are claiming incapacity benefit because they are disabled and therefore cannot work.

Secondly, I am curious to know why landlords prefer not to let their properties to people claiming DSS benefits. (My sister is not physically disabled, so no alternations would need to be made to any property she resides). I have heard horror stories where landlords have let their properties to professional working people who have later ran into difficulties. Indeed, these people are more likely to have a sudden change in circumstances than a long term disabled person on stable benefits.

Thank you for taking the time to read this - I hope your replies will enable me to offer my sister some help or advice in this matter.

attilathelandlord
10-09-2006, 17:33 PM
A lot mortgage companies specifically state that properties cannot be let to HB (DSS) tenants.

Also, HB may not cover the whole of the rent and in the case of your sister, if she can't go to work to make up the difference, who will pay it for her?

It is not discrimination to turn down tenants who are disabled if their disability would mean major alterations would be necessary for the tenancy. For example, if I have a property which is a listed building, I may not get permission to make any alterations.

HB is also difficult for a lot of landlords with only one or two properties and who really rely on the rent coming in. HB can take months to start coming through. Who will pay the rent in the meantime? The landlord must keep paying the mortgage regardless.

pippay
10-09-2006, 17:44 PM
Being a disabled tenant in privately rented accommodation (due to chronic illness and disability) on Disability Living Allowance , Long term Incapacity Benefit, Income Support , Housing benefit & CT Benefit (all of which add up to a gross income of approx £26k a year - more than some professional working tenants earn) ) I can TOTALLY identify with your sister and the problems she is facing trying to find somewhere decent to live.

I searched for a good 3 months before I found this place and was getting really despondent - actually "desperate" probably sums it up better.

Then I approached a Letting Agent and offered 6 months in advance, 6 weeks deposit against damages (which is pretty standard no matter who the tenant is) and a guarantor and they nearly snatched my arm off .!!! is this an option for your sister ?

At the moment I don't believe it is illegal to turn down prospective tenants on the grounds that they are claiming benefits and I totally agree with you that some working tenants can be far worse than genuine tenants claiming benefits. Unfortunately though, LL's in general judge us by the reputation the bad element of Benefit claiming tenants have produced and we're all lumped together. I would be very interested to know if it is discrimination to turn down someone because they are Disabled and therefore HAVE to rely on the relevant Benefits. I think there would have to be a Human Rights test case before anything was done, though.

So for now we just have to live with it and try and get round it.

Another option you can try is getting in touch with the Local Authority. Most have a department that liaises with private Landlords who are willing to rent to people on benefits, especially if they are disabled in any way, and these departments usually run a "bond" scheme where they guarantee the LL against any damages (instead of the tenant having to find the deposit as well as rent in advance).

Try asking the Housing Department, or alternatively Social Services, for a contact name. Social Services were the ones who put me in touch with the department in my area, although it turned out that it wasn't the best option for me (because of my illness./disabilities) and I would be better off in social housing

My LA runs not only that scheme but one of the Housing Associations (which used to be owned by the Council) also run a Letting Agent service to private LL's .. and they seem VERY VERY professional, so that too is another option. So it is well worth finding out about the Housing Associations in your area and approaching them to see if they run similar schemes ...

I don't know your sister's current situation but is there a case perhaps for applying for a "council" property? Your local Shelter office will be able to offer advice and expertise as to whether whether she has a case to be treated as "homeless" and in priority need, and act as her advocate throughout the application process.

I'm sorry your sister is having these problems but I'm sure there are other options out there for her .. it's just a question of knowing what to look for and where, and knowing what to offer a LL or Letting Agent !! Now you have this info I'm sure you will both feel more positive and that a good outcome will prevail.

In the meantime, my current LL (who prior to me, totally refused to have benefit claimants) reduced my rent when he heard that I was going to leave, in order to try and get me to stay - so I have at least converted ONE skeptic LL !!

In fact, I don't know where you are but if you were in my neck of the woods (Kent) my place is becoming vacant on October 13th .. just a thought !!! ;)

Good luck and let us know how you get on ...

pippay
10-09-2006, 18:00 PM
Sorry Attila but the only comment that stands up to being a genuine reason is the restriction by mortgage lenders ... and even that doesn't work if a tenant who started out as a working tenant becomes ill or loses their job .. what are LL's supposed to do then? issue them with notice to quit? I doubt it very much.

It's a bit like the fact that most lenders have a restrictive clause stating you have to inform them and get their permission if you have a lodger move in .... how many homeowners with a mortgage do that in reality ?



Also, HB may not cover the whole of the rent and in the case of your sister, if she can't go to work to make up the difference, who will pay it for her? This largely depends on whether the property being applied for is too "legally" large for the tenant, or if the property is overpriced against comaprable properties in the area. A Rent Office pre-tenancy determination will estalish both points for both the LL and prospective tenant before any tenancy commences.

It is not discrimination to turn down tenants who are disabled if their disability would mean major alterations would be necessary for the tenancy. This OP has clearly stated that no alterations would be required so in this case, is it discrimination to turn her down because she is disabled and HAS to be on benefits ?? For example, if I have a property which is a listed building, I may not get permission to make any alterations.

HB is also difficult for a lot of landlords with only one or two properties and who really rely on the rent coming in. HB can take months to start coming through. Who will pay the rent in the meantime? The landlord must keep paying the mortgage regardless. Agreed it can take some time for HB to kick in but if the tenant has paid, say, 6 months in advance (which they get back, in backdated HB from the date of their claim) I fail to see how this is a bona fide argument for a LL to use when turning down someone on Benefits, (especially someone who is disabled) as the LL has guaranteed rent for possibly the entire length of the initial fixed period of the tenancy !!!

MrsPop
10-09-2006, 20:58 PM
Thank you both for your replies.

Pippay, I am sorry to hear that you too have experienced similar problems to my sister. I would like to think that these are isolated cases, but unfortunately, I know there are many others facing similar difficulties.

Thank you for your suggestions, some of these seem worth looking into for my sister's case. Unfortunately, like many other people (claiming DSS benefits or otherwise), my sister does not have the money up front to offer a letting agent six months rent in advance, and the six weeks deposit. But thank you for the suggestion, this has worked for you, so it may well provide a solution for others who read this. Although I would like to add that my sister has a friend who once found herself in a similar position, and was able to offer the six months rent in advance, but was still turned down even then.

In response to attilathelandlord, Pippay seems to have covered everything I would have said in response to this.

I am still unsure as to whether this counts as discrimination or not.


A lot mortgage companies specifically state that properties cannot be let to HB (DSS) tenants.
This would suggest to me that the mortgage companies at least may be discriminating against people claiming HB.

From what I can gather from your responses, it appears to be the Benefits System itself which is causing the problem here. Would you agree? If the Benefits System was more efficient, and would start to pay out as soon as the tenant needed to pay the rent, would landlords be more willing to let their properties to people claiming DSS benefits?

Thank you once again for your replies. I have decided to write to my MP about this.

pippay
10-09-2006, 21:52 PM
I agree to a point that the way HB payments are administered and paid can be an element in why LL's don't favour HB claimants.

A major stumbling block is that even if the rent is paid directly to the LL they must have the tentns permission and then only get paid 4 weekly in arrears and if the tenant does a "moonlight" or they stop getting HB for any reason, the onus is on the LL to prove that he/she was not aware of these changes in circumstanaces, or he loses out out on the arrears owed to him ...

Absolutely ludicrous in my opinion .. on the one hand there is this bit of legislation and on the other if the LL was to visit the premises regularly to make sure the tenants are still living there and they are still entitled to claim HB, it's viewed as harassment !!! It's a LOSE/LOSE for the LL.

But these factors certainly don't paint the whole picture.

At the risk of upsetting some LL's on here, from previous discussions on this forum, another major issue for LL's is that if they need to evict an HB tenant, the Local Authority will not help re-house the tenant until bailiffs are knocking on the door. The fact that working tenants can also apply for re-housing and be told exactly the same thing seems to have escaped some LL's attention!

Another issue for them is the stigma (which most LL's will vehemently deny!) that all tenants in receipt of benefits are unreliable and more likely not to look after the property. But I'm afraid it DOES exist. My LL was a case in point - one previous bad experience and he refused to have Benefit claimants again. Do LL's who have a bad experience with a working tenant then decide they will refuse to have working tenants in the future? I think not !!

IMHO, genuine Benefit claimants ARE discrimiated against (by both outside factors such as legislation and restrictive clauses by BTL mortgage Lenders) and ALSO by those LL's who have a negative stereotype image in their heads when it comes to Benefit claimants.


Thank you for your suggestions, some of these seem worth looking into for my sister's case. Unfortunately, like many other people (claiming DSS benefits or otherwise), my sister does not have the money up front to offer a letting agent six months rent in advance, and the six weeks deposit. Certainly the Deposit can be covered by a Social Fund Payment - an interest free Budgeting Loan (if she's on Income Support and she should be as long-term Incapacity Benefit falls about £5.00 p.w. LESS than the Income Support level) or by the Bond Scheme through the Local Authority

I am still unsure as to whether this counts as discrimination or not.

This would suggest to me that the mortgage companies at least may be discriminating against people claiming HB. We are considered to be a "high" risk .. no matter how good our credit rating is!!! So I'm with you on this one - there is "indirect discrimination" going on by the mortgage Lenders !

From what I can gather from your responses, it appears to be the Benefits System itself which is causing the problem here. Would you agree If the Benefits System was more efficient, and would start to pay out as soon as the tenant needed to pay the rent, would landlords be more willing to let their properties to people claiming DSS benefits?To a degree, yes. In my area HB is sorted out within a couple of weeks and is backdated to the date they received the application. However, what seems to be the problem is that Housing Benefit Regulations ( legally called a Stautory Instrument) state that it must be paid in arrears, so the HB claimant immediately has to find additional rent in advance up front, over and above what a working tenant would need to find, in order to stay in advance with the rent. And many people on HB are the most vulnerable in society !!
Thank you once again for your replies. I have decided to write to my MP about this. Good idea - I will too and perhaps other posters on here who are sympathetic can do the same ???

ATI
11-09-2006, 00:12 AM
Renting is like a business. the LL do not care what colour or race or the sourse of income comes from. they only care about money.

Being on DSS does not mean that you are bad or anything but sadly it does send a message to some LL that you are one. my ex landlady sent me an S21 as soon as she heard that i lost my job after being there for over 3 years even though she knew that i have over 10k in savings. she did not care she just did not like Dss and did not like kids( i also told her that my Mrs was expecting). some LL need some help.

justaboutsane
11-09-2006, 06:43 AM
ATI renting IS a business! I agree with Pippay that LL should take ppl on their merits and not just because they are claiming HB. I had to claim HB when I first left my ex partner, I was working part time and could not get housed by the council. I would never have been able to afford anywhere to live if my LL had not accepted HB.

If a LL invests in a certain area where a high proportion of ppl claim HB then they have to accept that HB will be a part of their income.

I am a property manager and I always check ppl out fully and in some cases an HB applicant can win over a working applicant if I do not feel comfortable.

OP we have vacant properties in South Wales and South Yorkshire if your sister is looking in these general areas give me a shout and I will see what we can do for her.

Good luck

caroline7758
11-09-2006, 09:07 AM
If you could let us know which area you are in, someone here might have some local knowledge. Your council should also be able to let you know if there are any "bond schemes" in the area which can help with the deposit, and possibly rent in advance, and may know of landlords who have vacant properties and will take people on benefits.

ATI
11-09-2006, 10:19 AM
I have to be fair and say that the most important thing for both LL and tenant is checks and not income. you could have really bad tenants like our neighbours they both work and everyone is complaining about them. they throw rubbish everywhere fight day and night and make so much noise and do not care. they bring in desiel into the house. throw rubbish from the windows etc... and if you see them you would think that they are managers .

paul_c
11-09-2006, 12:39 PM
Being a disabled tenant in privately rented accommodation (due to chronic illness and disability) on Disability Living Allowance , Long term Incapacity Benefit, Income Support , Housing benefit & CT Benefit (all of which add up to a gross income of approx £26k a year - more than some professional working tenants earn) )...


Well, youre certainly right there. That's far more than I bring in as a salary and the income from my properties combined!

islandgirl
11-09-2006, 13:43 PM
I would not turn someone down just because they were on HB but here is my experience. "Working" tenant. Gives up his job and starts claiming HB. I know nothing whatsoever about this (which is wrong in my opinion - LL used to have to be informed but rules have changed). Tenant spends money and pays me nothing. I start section 8 proceedings and then find out he is on HB. Tell council and (after a lot of work) manage to get benefit paid to me. (Does not cover all rent - Tenant still not paying a penny). Tenant finally moves out on day of hearing (at which I was given possession). Tells council he moved out a week before he did. Takes me months to get the last weeks rent out of the council as they refuse to pay. It is the fight which people often have with council HB depts which put them off I think as well as the "eviction" thing. If a tenant passed all my checks and was prepared to have HB paid directly to me and it covered all the rent and I thought they were OK, then I would rent to them no problem!

Stel
11-09-2006, 13:55 PM
My flat is a leasehold property I am prohibited by the terms of the lease to sublet to " students, HB claimants and large groups of sharers".

pippay
11-09-2006, 22:14 PM
But there is a price to pay for that £26k !!!!! it's being in constant pain that requires controlled drugs to keep it at bay (not get rid of it altogether); not being able to eat food but rely on feeding thru a tube into the intestines; constant emergency admissions to hospital sometimes only days apart and always in excess of a week each time; major life threatening surgeries and several spells in intensive care; throwing up every 20 minutes for days at a time; not being able to plan even a day in advance - the list goes on ..

Would I swap my illness for a lower income ? Yes of course I would AND all that goes with it, including not being treated as a Pariah merely because I have the misfortune (and I'm luckier than alot of people) to be on HB because I am ill and disabled as a result ........

But more to the point would you swap your life style for my hgher income ?

Unless your answer is an unequivical "YES" then I suggest you work a little harder .....


Well, youre certainly right there. That's far more than I bring in as a salary and the income from my properties combined!

pippay
11-09-2006, 22:20 PM
I totally agree with you .. the Housing Benefit Reguations seems to be at odds with the Housing Act and the LL ends up in a LOSE/LOSE situation ..
but it's good to hear of a LL who, given that the payment issue was resolved, would consider HB tenants :)


I would not turn someone down just because they were on HB but here is my experience. "Working" tenant. Gives up his job and starts claiming HB. I know nothing whatsoever about this (which is wrong in my opinion - LL used to have to be informed but rules have changed). Tenant spends money and pays me nothing. I start section 8 proceedings and then find out he is on HB. Tell council and (after a lot of work) manage to get benefit paid to me. (Does not cover all rent - Tenant still not paying a penny). Tenant finally moves out on day of hearing (at which I was given possession). Tells council he moved out a week before he did. Takes me months to get the last weeks rent out of the council as they refuse to pay. It is the fight which people often have with council HB depts which put them off I think as well as the "eviction" thing. If a tenant passed all my checks and was prepared to have HB paid directly to me and it covered all the rent and I thought they were OK, then I would rent to them no problem!

mtenant
16-09-2006, 04:17 AM
Hi I am a DSS tenant and here is my opinion on the matter.

I am a witness to the high diffilculty in getting somewhere to live, I think the system is designed that benefit claimants would live in social housing and people who work rent private property or buy their own property, but due to the extreme shortage of social housing this doesnt work out.

However I can understand where the landlords are coming from because I am a witness to these evident problems in the HB system.

For new claims it often takes months and my first ever claim it took over a "YEAR" to start. During this time either the tenant has to cover the rent via other income or the landlord is financially out of pocket.

HB pays in arrears where I have never met a letting agent or landlord that charges in arrears its always in advance so in this regard its outdated.

HB pays 4 weekly when the tenant pays rent monthly meaning 13 payments a year which is why when monthly rent is due even with max entitlement it will be under the rent.

HB often gets suspended easily for pitifil reasons and like a new claim can take months to resolve.

HB will get suspended whenever a change of circumstances occurs, it even happened to me when I pre informed them of the change.

HB doesnt cover security deposits.

I think their does need to be some major changes to HB but the problem I see is that they are poor because the government is paranoid about fraud the whole system is designed so if fraud occurs the losses are minimised.

I would like to see the following if anything to give LLs more faith in the system and make life easier for tenants.

HB garantueed for length of tenancy upto max period of 12 months, if tenant has change of circumstances losing entitlement to benefit but then wrongly claims HB in this situation the LL shouldnt be made to suffer losses and the claimant pay the money back or goto court over it to be put in custody. Obviously this option would need LL consent on the claim.

Max waiting time for new claims of 4 weeks and claims paid in advance so after 4 weeks a 2 months payment is paid. If HB department cant rocess a claim within 2 months of all evidence been provided then they have to pay compensation to claimant this acts as detterent for departments who dont employ enough staff.

Only suspend claims after claimant has been given reasonable time to rectify issue found, dont proactively suspend claims.

If rent paid monthly pay claim monthly.

My personal circumstances are I was working when I moved into my first property from my landlord (he doesnt accept DSS) but then fell ill and lost my job due to falling ill and started claiming incapacity benefit, housing benefit. The bedsit he paid the council tax. I didnt tell the landlord about my status but when I had to get the original tenancy agreement off him for my HB claim he did get suspicous but I told him the bank wanted it to verify my standing order to him was for rent and not for another creditor. The guy i the bedsit next to me was also claiming HB but because he was in arrears whilst he was waiting for his claim and the LL knew he was on benefits, I have no idea if he was working when he moved in as he was there before me. He never got evicted the LL stuck with him and he eventually caught up I think. I have never been in arrears with my landlord I have came close many times when HB got suspended but I am very lucky my dad has helped me out when this happened. I also try to have spare cash in the bank so I can cover 1 month of HB suspension. Reasons for HB getting suspended whilst there some of them were stupid but things like, change of circumstances at least 3 times, IB to IS, IB lower rate to IB higher rate and something else. Also there was a dispute about the water rates (LL pays them) and council tax towards the end of my time there. Basically they said they been paying me as if council tax not included and the same for water rates and its to be reduced, the problem was they didnt know how much so wanted me to get letter of landlord to ask how much of the rent exactly is for water rates + council tax or let them contact him direct. Obviously a very bad dillema, this is when I decided to move.

I knew the HB system would pay me more for somehwre better anyway I was living in a small bedsit and I am over 25 so entitled to 1 bedroom flat, my landlord set me a cap on rent I could move to for new property but it was a substantial increase enough to upgrade and I was allowed to carry over my old deposit which covered about 2/3rds of new one and just pay the excess rent for 1st month since normal standing ordered for old place was used so basically I only had to find about £200 instead of nearer a grand which I would have needed for new LL, also the fact of my employment never came up since I had a good history (no arrears).

Now at this time my IB just rose to long term rate and I had some cash to cover 2 months rent 1 which was already gone on the 1st month and moving costs, HB department had told me I dont need to do full brand new claim but just show them new tenancy agreement and they would set it up with that, the old claim by sheer luck for me was cancelled too late so I had a bonus cheque to help me out as I was doing by the book they let me keep it. They said it shouldnt take long but then after about 6 weeks I was worried I was i the trap of waiting for months, gave them a ring and they confirmed my fears was given the usual lecture that some people are still waiting from 2005 (was july 2006) so gave me idea of length of waiting list and I could only be treated as urgent if I had a eviction order, having used my MP in the past to great affect I decided to send a letter threatening the MP reminding them I have used her before, after only a week I was given HB on account.

Check here.

http://england.shelter.org.uk/advice/advice-123.cfm#wipLive-13315-3

Many people are unaware of this law that you are entitled to HB on account after 2 weeks of the claim which made me glad I researched, HB on account will be a low payment that they are confident the proper claim will exceed so has little danger of been an overpayment but it gives you something, in my case it was about 2/3rds of my full payment, at this stage they had fulfilled the law and was expecting a long wait but then a week after that I got another letter with my evaluated payments, they rewarded me full entitlement minus excess income, my excess income been around 8 pound a week, its more then 32 pound a month down tho since its 4 weekly and not monthly but it means assuming I dont get suspended one month I will have 2 cheques instead of 1. The difference I make up with my IB income. I also get council tax benefit now which again doesnt cover it all, so after that is taken off and my 25% single person discount I pay 14 a month which I find very reasonable.

So my LL is unaware I am a claimant or he does know but because I am reliable he is ok with it, I have told him I am ill but said I work from home he never asked me any more questions, I only said this because he did question why I am rarely out in the day. I get the HB via cheque and I am aware some people would be tempted to spend this and end up in arrears however I am responsible and it goes in my bank and sits there for the standing order to go out I also managed to pay my rent fine when I had excess payments to catch up on when they took a further 8 pound a week of me to pay back overpayments at my old address this took 9 weeks.

I did try to move to a different city nearer my parents but hit many problems first been the costs much higher, second been credit check which I am not sure I would have passed and the biggest problem been the employment checks. So decided it was easiest to keep my current landlord, social housing is useless I think I must be on the waiting list for in excess 4 years now.

Some more bad flaws are highlighted in the above paragraphs the main one been the HB system seems to think its ok to wait for eviction notices before treating cases more urgently and more often then not this is too late the relationship with LL is ruined and even with the payment issued the eviction notice may well still stand.

Thanks for those who take the time to read this.

Paul_f
16-09-2006, 19:14 PM
The "DSS" doesn't exist and hasn't for many years.
The main problem for landlords is that local authorities sometimes make a hash of paying out Benefit and the landlord has inconsistent income, which he can often ill afford .
It is infinitely more difficult for a landlord to regain possession from Benefit claimants as they are forced to apply to the court, and often must send in the bailiff just so the tenant doesn't make themselves "voluntarily homeless". It also costs the landlord time and money. It's the system that's at fault.

MrWoof
16-09-2006, 20:46 PM
Personally, I prefer tenants claiming HB, I only have three bedroomed properties and look for tenants with school age children. Experience has taught me that they are likely to stay for several years. Paul f's comment about the unreliability of HB payments is true to an extent, in my area it takes anything up to three months to get HB through and for the first six months or so it is liable to be stopped for checking. After this it settles down and is regular. I operate a policy of charging the tenant a small top up to give them a financial interest in the house, I have found that in most cases where the tenant lives free they do not look after the place. Getting rid on a section 21 I have found no difference between private and HB tenants except that the bulk of the rent still arrives until the HB tenant actually leaves, private tenants stop paying on receipt of the S21. Difficult to use a section 8 though for rent (top up) arrears as the rent, not top up, must be two months in arrears before action can be taken.