A new BBC investigation into landlords and letting agents who post ‘No DSS’ adverts online has forced several leading portals to promise to do more to stamp out the practice.

Researchers at the broadcaster looked at 300,000 rental property listings on the key platforms used by landlords and agent to advertise properties including SpareRoom, OpenRent, Zoopla and Rightmove.

Both Rightmove and Zoopla were found to have relatively few ‘No DSS’ listings while the BBC claims that the majority of ads on OpenRent and SpareRoom make it clear that tenants on benefits will not be considered.

hutchinson spareroom

Both platforms told the investigation that they were working to address issues and, in the case of SpareRoom, changed its tech so landlords can only list rooms as unavailable to benefit claimants if their mortgage or insurance specifically ban it.

“However, we’ve seen far more rooms still being listed as unavailable than the small number we expected,” its director Matt Hutchinson (pictured) told the BBC.

“The reality is that there are almost no buy-to-let mortgages left with those clauses in them, so we’re currently in the process of removing the option to list as unavailable to benefit claimants completely.”

Universal credit

What the BBC investigation failed to point out is why so many landlords are reluctant to accept tenants in receipt of Universal Credit or other benefits.

Instead it reveals that it is just one of 13 reasons why landlords won’t accept, based on a YouGov poll of 634 landlords in December 2019.

As LandlordZONE has reported on numerous occasions, the government’s insistence that tenants are paid their rent direct, and the labyrinthine system that landlords must navigate to persuade tenants and the DWP to pay them the rent direct, can lead to rent arrears and significant losses for landlords.


  1. The reality is landlords want to let properties to tenants that will look after the property and pay the rent on time. In reality that means tenants that are employed and who generally have something to lose should they fail in either of these regards ie their good name. This fairy land where everyone is equal doesn’t exist, in the same way that I want to decide who I leave my kids with or lend my car to landlords want to decide who they rent a property too. In reality DSS no longer exists but has become shorthand for on benefits . This world in which landlords can’t exclude DSS wont have any impact at all, landlords will simply word their adverts more carefully , they will still discount tenants who will be largely dependant upon state support as the risk of being lumbered with a non paying tenant for month after month in your property isn’t worth the risk

  2. I’ve let rooms to benefit claimants, without any problems. Better the devil you know. I’m extra careful vetting them first and take a deposit. Lots of landlords let to tenants in work, who later lose their jobs and claim benefits without telling the landlord. That results in the landlord carrying a greater risk profile tenant than he realizes.
    Better to understand the tenant is high risk from the outset.

    • Any tenant who dies what you suggest is criminally breaching their contract.

      If the property burns down and the insurer finds out that a material fact notification that the tenants were now in receipt of HB wasn’t notified to the insurer the LL would be unsuccessful in a claim.

      That would bankrupt the LL especially if mortgaged.

      The trouble with these stupid lefties is they know nothing about how business works.

      A LL is perfectly entitled to take a business decision not to take on anyone in receipt of benefits.

      It is IRRELEVANT if a LL business decisions result in alleged indirect discrimination.

      Being on welfare is NOT a protected characteristic and no LL can be forced to take on DSS tenants.

      Most LL don’t have a problem with DSS tenants per se but they do have massive issues withe the UC system.

      There are so many things wrong with the UC system that LL don’t wish to engage with it
      It remains still completely dysfunctional.

      A significant issue is that many LL charge far more than the LHA allowance.
      So such tenants need to be excluded from referencing.

      LL know what the LHA is for their properties.
      It is pointless bothering with them.

      The facts remain that many mortgage lenders and insurers do discriminate against DSS tenants.

      These conditions are as a result of these institutions considering that DSS tenants are higher business risks.

      Whether this is actually the case or not is IRRELEVANT.
      Business decisions are entitled to be made.

      Whether they are good ones or not is IRRELEVANT.

      That is for the LL to make.
      Nobody has the right to dictate to a LL who he CHOOSES to take on as tenants.

      Like it or not there IS a substantial difference between UC income and private income.

      Given the choice between a vacant property and one where I took on a UC tenant I would always choose to keep the property vacant.

      The ONLY thing that would make me consider taking on UC tenants was if I was able to evict after 46 days of rent defaulting WITHOUT any requirement for Court action.
      Within that 46 day period would be two months rent default and a 14 day notice to vacate.
      But we all know Govt would never allow such a speedy eviction process in cases of rent defaulting.
      Personally I have been completely ignored by the DWP when I submitted my UC 47.
      Left me out of pocket by about £1100 again.

      Never again will I consider DSS tenants

      • I don’t think breach of contract is a criminal offence. I think it’s a civil matter, unless there is fraud involved. Even then, good luck getting the police to take any interest.

        For an experienced landlord to completely rule out benefit tenants is foolish, in my opinion. I often let to benefit tenants, both as single lodgers and tenant families.
        The advantages are that you will get more applicants if you advertise as DSS welcome. I put more effort and time into vetting them, but once you get a good one they can stay for years.

        I’ve got a benefits tenants family in one of my houses. They’ve got dogs, the garden looks scruffy, but I don’t care. I’ve got a watertight guarantor homeowner relative signed as a deed. The family have been there 10 years and never missed a rent payment, never asked me to fix anything. They just treat it as their own home. It’s a high yield, long term asset, not a glossy show home.

        The amount of landlords I see crying over a bit of non structural damage is laughable. Unless the place burns down, I’m really not bothered. It will probably be totally stripped out and renovated by the next owner anyway.

    • I don’t see what all the fuss is about the advertising. Don’t put any reference to DSS/UC claimants in the add and ask pertinent questions to those responding and filter those that don’t fit the bill. References and proof of employment with a good credit score guarantor should help solve the problem.

      We do not use an agency and take on DSS/UC and vet all applicants the same, assessing each with a series of questions telling them we are gathering the data and will phone them back in a week or so. We don’t even tell them where the property is. That way we retain control and invite who we feel checks out the best. It’s also easy to check what their UC allowance is due to their circumstances so it would be a foolish LL/agent to let to a client who has to make up a large rental gap with no other means of income…!!

      The only problem we have had with a rental is a couple who both worked. Still being paid the arrears through the court. Name and current address supplied if anyone is interested.

      At least with UC clients if they fall into arrears they can give the authority to pay the LL direct and the monies paid is regular once the ball starts rolling and arrears collected on an agreed weekly payment. Done this in the past and was even being paid when they had left the property.

      A bit more flexibility with UC clients is needed by LL’s I’m afraid and in the current climate if you exclude them you are losing a big market to tap into.

      • I agree with you.

        In my experience, the best option is to spend time vetting the potential occupiers myself. I don’t trust any letting agencies to do this, as there’s an immediate conflict of interest, with the agent wanting the place let.

        The agencies also only use “textbook” vetting procedures, whereas I use my common sense and initiative.

        I do my own enquiries and research the applicants. Then sometimes pay for additional vetting, depending on the applicant.
        Sometimes I’ve known the applicant or their family for over 20 years.

  3. I let rooms in my HMOs via openrent. I advertise the rooms at a rent that reflects the fact that the tenant will be out at work all day and will not have the heating on during that time or causing additional wear and tear (10% w&t has been taken away from landlords). If I had unemployed tenants the heating would be on 24/7. This has been my experience. Unemployed tenants tend to have all their mates around all day – heating on full blast, windows open, smoking, drinking, drug taking and dealing, and generally turning the place into a doss house. Again, this is my own experience. And then there’s the failure to pay rent and any landlord will tell you that getting the rent arrears paid back by an unemployed person is next to impossible. These are my, personal, reasons for not accepting unemployed people. If anyone thinks I should give an unemployed person a chance my response is “If you’d like me to take a chance, then you can sign as guarantor.” Nobody ever has.

    • Not all benefit claimants are troublesome. Each case is different. Some have relatives who can act as suitable guarantors.
      I often turn down unemployed tenants, if I can’t get a good grasp of their history.
      One of the most reliable methods I’ve found is if an existing tenant recommends a friend as another tenant. I make it clear that the first tenant will also be evicted if his new recommendation turns bad. I expect the new tenant pays the existing tenant for the recommendation, but that’s their business.
      If you have friends or relatives in the local police or social departments, they can give you some hints as well.

      I also only take men over 25. That gives time for any problems with the law to show up when I Google them and their associates and relatives.
      I won’t take anyone from a problem family, as the apple rarely falls far from the tree (in my experience).

      I don’t accept women, as the unknown boyfriend is more risky than the unknown girlfriend (in my experience). Plus these single guys will often end up meeting a woman with kids and a social house, so they spend time there, but keep the room for benefit reasons.

      • Thread on the HMO forum about problems with mixed sex households. Man is hanging around outside the shower room, watching the girl leave.
        He could just be waiting to go in and take a pee though.
        I’m surprised how many landlords do mix men and women in HMOs.


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