Leading UK property website Zoopla is to refuse to take advertisements for lettings from landlords who state “No DSS” or in any way bar people who are receiving housing benefit.
Zoopla has said it will in future prohibit landlords posting ads which state “No DSS”, a commonly-used acronym referring back to a time when housing benefit was paid by the now defunct Department of Social Security.
Following a recent exposé conducted by The National Housing Federation and Shelter it was found that one in 10 letting agents in England were regularly refusing to let to Housing Benefit (DSS) tenants.
Even though it has been estimated that around 890,000 people in England are in receipt of housing benefit payments, to help pay their rent, it was found that the no DSS policy was being enforced by landlords and agents even when tenants could show they could afford the rent.
There is some debate about the legality of refusing outright all “DSS” tenants, there as question over whether it’s direct or indirect discrimination, but according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), around half of landlords would not be willing to let to them.
Responding to the Zoopla announcement, Chris Town, Vice Chair of the Residential Landlords Association has said:
“We welcome today’s announcement from Zoopla which comes after extensive campaigning by the RLA. Landlords should not refuse someone solely because they are on benefits, and should consider prospective tenants on a case by case basis. But with growing numbers of benefit claimants now reliant on the private rented sector we need to do more to give tenants and landlords greater confidence in the benefits system.
“This means building on positive changes already made by the Government by giving all tenants the right to choose if they want to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord; working with bank lenders to remove mortgage terms that prevent landlords renting to benefit claimants as NatWest has already done; and ending the Local Housing Allowance freeze which has meant benefits bear little resemblance to rents.
“We look forward to working constructively with the Government to address these issues.”
RLA research has found that the average amount owed by Universal Credit tenants in rent arrears increased by half from just over £1,600 in 2017 to almost £2,400 in 2018.
Around two thirds of the largest buy-to-let mortgage lenders do not allow landlords to rent property to tenants receiving housing benefit.
Research by Manchester Metropolitan University for the RLA has found that 53 per cent of landlords reported that the gap between the Local Housing Allowance and local market rent was more than £50 a month. Almost 25% said the gap was over £100 a month.