Oxford has pledged to stamp out DSS discrimination against tenants on housing benefit and Universal Credit – the first council to take such a stand.

A cross-party motion has called on the cabinet to explicitly ban discrimination against welfare recipients by changing the wording of its landlord accreditation scheme to say: ‘You must not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, race, language, sexuality or any other factor that might place an individual at a disadvantage.

This includes indirect discrimination such as ‘no DSS’ or related practices, namely refusing to let prospective tenants on housing benefit or universal credit view affordable properties and requiring guarantors in cases where a prospective tenant’s income is sufficient.’

It wants to ensure that the city’s welfare reform team proactively looks out for, and acts upon, reported cases of discrimination and suggests that a new, formal tenants’ forum should be consulted on housing decisions.

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The council’s housing and homelessness panel will monitor action taken to address discrimination against those on benefits while duty housing officers would refer cases to the welfare reform team and independent advice centres.

chris jarvis oxford no dss

Green Party councillor Chris Jarvis (pictured) tells LandlordZONE that for too long, some landlords and letting agents have been acting with impunity. 

“DSS discrimination is often covert, however, community union Acorn has documented clear examples of letting agents in the city actively engaging in discriminatory practices against welfare recipients including ensuring that potential tenants are screened before landlords let properties and not letting properties to tenants on universal credit or housing benefit.”

Last July, York County Court ruled that landlords and letting agents risk prosecution if they won’t allow housing benefit claimants to rent their properties. However, last October, an investigation by the BBC Data Unit found Wokingham landlords were refusing to rent to benefits claimants; none of the landlords who listed 45 properties on the website OpenRent accepted ‘DSS income’.

Safieh Kabir, chair of Acorn’s Oxford branch, tells LandordZONE: “We’re proud that our members’ collective campaigning efforts have pushed the issue of covert DSS discrimination out from the shadows.

“Oxford has a deserved reputation as a divided city, and property owners discriminating against renters on benefits is yet another factor squeezing working class people out.”

27 COMMENTS

  1. Landlords want to let to people that can afford the property on their own without government support and who in reality have something to lose should they fail to pay rent. Acorn , the greens and all the other left wing groups who take equality to this ridiculous level don’t help anyone.

    The owner of a property will always determine who lives there , this no dss ban will simply mean people on benefits will be given a false sense of hope. They will travel to see properties at a cost they can ill afford to waste, when in reality the owner has no intention to let to them . Property owners fearful of being accused of discrimination will show everyone around, but with no intention of letting to benefit recipients.

    Generally people want openness and honesty, if there is no way a property owner will let to benefit claimant’s then why waste all parties time and money?

    • “Acorn , the greens and all the other left wing groups who take equality to this ridiculous level don’t help anyone.”

      Exactly right. It just looks good on their agenda & in headlines. Much like EPCs, rent controls, limited deposits etc etc. It’s all BS & at the end of the day just costs tenants in rising rents to pay for all this silliness.
      No party or so called tenant organisation actually cares about tenants. If they did they’d house them or fund them directly themselves.

      • Exactly – now effectively trying to force PRS LL’s to be part of the welfare state. We have already been forced into it with the goalposts moved drastically with the evictions ban, extended notice periods etc with existing tenants due to covid. Now they want to effectively compel LL’s to take benefit claimants! This coupled with making it very difficult for LL’s to get direct payments for these claimants.

        Seriously no PRS LL in their right mind would take benefit claimants in who, once in, can pocket the housing element of their benefit, pay no rent for at least 4 months (average probably 12+), then move to the next one.

        I would rather leave my rentals empty than take in benefits claimants again. This is not discrimination, it is from personal experience – and with increasing persecution of PRS LL’s, it may well mean that the PRS sector has one less LL.

    • Or Maybe councils should provide housing for their tenants and benefits tenants. But there again they could be like Croydon who famously license every property in their borough (fund raising no doubt) and then found THE Council were not maintaining a property to acceptable stadards. This policy will without doubt drive out some PRS landlords who wish to choose who they rent to rather than be dicated to by a bunch of lunatic councillors used to spending other peoples money.

  2. And here is the reason why LL/agents screen …’and requiring guarantors in cases where a prospective tenant’s income is sufficient.’
    If you can’t afford it then you can’t afford it do not live in it….
    Example 2… ‘I wanna Lamborghini’…. I can afford it let alone service it and run it SOOOO I don’t go try n get one, as the sales person will tell me go ‘do’ myself!!!

    • Unlike buying a car where they are allowed to reposes if payments aren’t kept up tenants don’t get out after even court order and even told by Councils to stay there until evicted!

  3. Oxford Council obviously hasn’t bothered investigating why landlords don’t want DSS tenants and how to help address the issue. They just issued a new legislation and left the landlords to pick up the pieces, as with the eviction ban. They only know what fair is when it’s a fairly good deal for them.

  4. As part of the lettings process LL’s carryout various checks on any prospective tenants, indeed some are mandated such as the Right to Rent laws.
    Once those checks are carried out then inevitably one balances risk and generally one would let to the most viable client. No right-minded business is going to take on an inferior client over a superior one and there are many factors that come into play when assessing the viability of clients against each other such as their rent payment history, LL references, career, potential duration of the tenancy and of course ability to pay etc etc.

    No different than the banks running affordability and credit checks before making mortgage offers.

    In the end no mater how many people apply for a property the landlord is not obliged t accept anyone and could simply wait for more applications until someone that the LL feels suitable comes along.

    This policy will not make any difference especially when councils currently make life extremely difficult for LL’s already by forcing people to wait for an actual eviction before being prepared to process their claim for social housing, surely that is a form of “Direct” not indirect discrimination against both LL and tenant.

    Direct rent payments to landlords are by far the simplest way to reduce discrimination on financial grounds. until councils make that a fast and seamless process things are not going to change.

    In the end it comes down to the basic rule that no one can FORCE investors to invest in a particular commodity class. Many investors avoid highly regulated & high-risk markets and so will simply move to a sector that is easier in which to make a return such as investing in the FTSE 250.

    “Over the past 10 years, the FTSE 100 has produced an average annual return for investors of just under 7%. That is including the reinvestment of dividends and is much better than the returns from a Cash ISA.

    But over the same time frame, the FTSE 250 has produced an average annualised return for investors of 11.3% including dividends. At this rate of return, every £1,000 invested in the FTSE 250 10 years ago, would be worth £3,080 today.
    https://www.fool.co.uk/investing/2019/12/15/this-is-how-much-1k-invested-in-a-ftse-250-tracker-27-years-ago-would-be-worth-now/

    Apart from setting up the investment in the first place which takes just a few minutes then there is nothing to do, no evictions, no maintenance costs, no pets, no cannabis farms or pop-up brothels.
    The downside risk in the PRS is huge by comparison, you only need one dodgy tenant in the portfolio to effectively wipe out all profit.

    • Agreed. This latest “no DSS” thing is yet again just paying lip service to shut people up. It won’t affect anything in reality.

  5. So in light of last years story in the media about York landlords being at risk of prosecution if they discriminated against DSS claimants I accepted a young man who was on Universal Credit to rent a really nice room.
    He stayed in my property for 10 weeks, paid no rent whatsoever and took my new TV with him when he left.
    The DWP were no help when I tried to claim direct payments in fact they were downright obstructive so no, until things change I’m afraid that’s the last time I rent to benefit claimants, sorry.
    I’m sure that not all claimants are the same but with no help or backup of any kind the gamble of ‘may or may not pay’ is just not good enough.

      • I had a tenant steal 2 leather settees and a coffee table when she moved out & did all the leg work for the police. They wouldn’t prosecute but visited the tenant & she agreed to return the items. Both settees were returned slashed. Again no action from the police.

  6. I accepted tenants on benefits and they were there for about 3 months while trashing my house and selling whatever furniture they could. Their tenancy agreement was for 6months initially but after 3 months they decided to do a runner. DWP stopped paying me from the day they left. I pointed out that the AST was for 6 months and the tenants had broken the agreement but they said they were paying for a new property for the tenants so they closed my claim. In future I will play the game of showing my properties to everyone, but will never put myself or my properties at risk again. Either people can afford to pay my rent or they can’t. If they can’t – go elsewhere to somewhere cheaper, or not as nice.

    • Agree 100%

      If people sell other peoples possessions without their permission and pocket the proceeds – that is THEFT. But, curiously, not if you are a tenant.

      If you willfully damage someone else’s property – that is CRIMINAL DAMAGE. But again, not if you are a tenant.

      Is there actually an exemption in law for tenants? Or is it just utter police apathy..

  7. It would surely be immoral to enter into a contract & to force a tenant into a debt they cannot afford.

    Just like the financial sector, a landlord should perform necessary checks & only enter into a contract if they are satisfied a tenant can afford to do so without putting undue stress on their finances.

    If they do not do this then in future a tenant might sue the landlord for entering into a contract that the landlord should have known tenant cannot afford. Much like banks are being forced to abandon debts of their borrowers who now can’t afford to repay them.

    Not withstanding that, I do not trust the benefit system / government to pay either the tenant or myself rent that would be due.

    In the mean time who is going to pay for the landlords wasted time & travel costs if they are forced to show properties to unsuitable applicants?

    I now supply would be tenants with a questionnaire requesting information of their income / outgoings / employer. I don’t mention DSS (which does not even exist, so how can one be told they are discriminating against something that does not exist).

  8. If this is really to be the wording in the licensing scheme ‘You must not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, race, language, sexuality or any other factor that might place an individual at a disadvantage’ then it is the sloppiest piece of wording you’ll find outside of this government’s Covid-19 guidance (or is that regulations, or does anyone really understand?). What is a ‘disadvantage’? Insufficient income to pay the rent? No deposit? Lousy track record as tenant and no references? Pet alligator? I guess keeping the alligator might even be something Oxford Council would consider unacceptable or probably illegal.

  9. “You must not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, race, language, sexuality or any other factor that might place an individual at a disadvantage”

    It places landlords at a disadvantage since they are required to consider a higher risk category of tenant than they would otherwise. And if it can be proven your choice was solely based upon nothing more than DSS or not, you are in the dock. Yet insurance companies have identified DSS as higher risk as they will refuse (or have done) cover based on DSS tenants.

    Anyway, it’s not discrimination based upon DSS, it’s discretion based upon risk profile of someone who receives DSS support.

  10. If you could be guaranteed to evict a defaulter or criminal within 2 months, there would be less need for extensive vetting- you could take the risk on low income and give someone the benefit of trust. However, if you make it impossible to evict a defaulter for up to 2 years whatever their background, or income, an entirely different picture emerges. You fear both the wealthy scammers and those with no skin in the game (own income). On the face of it DSS should be a good bet for landlords as rent is paid by the govt. But in fact DSS are a high risk category both because of LAs desire not to rehouse defaulters until after eviction and DWP clawbacks of direct rent paid to landlords, as well as general benefit system incompetence. These are all political diversions from the real issue of inadequate social housing to meet increasing demands and housing needs. It is not the private landlords role or responsibility to provide social housing for govts or LAs, although in the current environment you could be forgiven for assuming this to be the case.

    • The fact is experienced landlords know that Councils have no credibility or professional standards so why would anyone wish to deal with them or tenants that rely on them. We have all experienced the fact they do not comply with government guidelines and insist tenants wait until the bailiff turn up. i.e. Advise tenant to commit contempt of court by ignoring the initial court order giving the landlord possession ususally within 14 days. So why would anyone trust these clowns?

  11. How long before Councils bring in a licensing rule to give the sole responsibility for selecting tenants to the Council, so they can force the scummiest, hardest to house homeless people on private landlords? What they want is full control of private rentals without responsibility. They hate private landlords and have no grasp of the concept of fairness.

    • In essence you are right…. That is exactly what happens at a job interview surely… Any selection process could be viewed as a form of discrimination.

      If you don’t make Team GB in the Olympics maybe you have been discriminated against ha ha ha

      Total lunacy,

  12. This is out and out COMMUNISM!!

    Apart from recognised ‘Protected Characteristics’ inability to pay for a service is NOT one of them.

    OCC is attempting to prescribe control over LL private assets……………..COMMUNISM.

    COMMUNISM doesn’t work.
    It never has and never will.

    The ONLY time a benign Socialism works is during wartime.

    That is because National Survival is best achieved by it.

    When normality returns then normal rules of business return.

    What OCC is proposing is a sort of billeting in LL properties.

    LL will not accept control of their assets.

    While there is a strong demand for property LL will have no problem selling up.

    Rather than use the term

    No DSS

    Use the term

    LETWA

    No applications from those with

    Limited Entitlement To Welfare Assistance

    This is the phrase that Social Housing providers use when not wishing to take on UC applicants.

    Will OCC be taking action against their Social Housing providers!?

    The elephant in the room that all the useless lefties fail to acknowledge even though they know the elephant is there is the inability of LL to quickly repossess when rent defaulting occurs.

    Just changing the repossession process for rent defaulting would transform the PRS for the better.

    LL naturally behave in certain ways because of this inability.

    Other factors such as the uselessness of the UC system are all perfectly valid circumstances for LL to take BUSINESS decisions not to let to DSS tenants.

    Many LL accept DSS tenants.

    They are entitled to take such BUSINESS decisions though their lender or insurer may not allow DSS tenants.

    Again that is a business decision by them.

    LL know what insurer and mortgage conditions are.

    The NRLA should really launch a JR of these Court decisions.

    It should be adjudicated that any LL refusing to accept anyone in receipt of UC is NOT discriminating.

    They are in fact making sensible business decisions.

    So I would like to see ALL the useless lefties campaigning for quick eviction in cases of rent defaulting

    So a total of 45 days of rent defaulting before a LL MAY remove a rent defaulting tenant WITHOUT ANY County Court action being required.

    So where rent is paid in advance 32 days of defaulted rent means 2 months of defaulted rent.

    Then a 14 day NTQ.
    The day after the LL may remove the tenant with Police assistance if required.

    If this was the repossession process in rent defaulting cases only then magically tenants of all sorts would find themselves being let to by many LL.

    It is the completely dysfunctional repossession process that causes LL to behave as they do.

    It informs exactly how I manage my business.

    Which is why I am getting out of the game.
    NO way will I allow my private assets to be controlled by feckless rent defaulting tenants.

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