Preventing estate agents using ‘No DSS’ policies to discriminate against renters

Case name: J v X Estate Agents

A female disabled renter successfully challenged an estate agent’s ‘No DSS’ policy on grounds it indirectly discriminated against her because of her sex and disability. Women and disabled people are more likely to be in receipt of housing benefit than men and non-disabled people, and as a result of the policy, blocked from renting many properties.

Legal issue

Is an estate agent’s ‘No DSS’ policy discriminatory?

Background

The claimant is a disabled single mum of two. In 2018 she was looking for a new home, after being served with a 'no fault' eviction notice by her current landlord.

Despite having ten years' proof of paying rent on time and excellent references from her two previous landlords, she was told by a letting agent that company policy meant that she could not be considered as a tenant as she receives housing benefit.

As she could not find another property to let she became homeless and had to move into a hostel with her daughter.

Shelter estimates that hundreds of thousands of people are potentially affected by discriminatory housing benefit policies, with 63% of private landlords saying they won't let or prefer not to let to benefit recipients.

Like the claimant in this case, some potential tenants become homeless because they cannot find a landlord who will let to them, despite being able to pay the rent.

Why we were involved

'No DSS' policies put in place by landlords and letting agents prevent recipients of housing benefits from renting properties they could otherwise afford.

Women and people with disabilities are more likely to be in receipt of housing benefits and this policy therefore disproportionately impacts those people, who have one or more Protected Characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.

 

What we did

We provided legal assistance by part-funding the case through Shelter.

What happened

At a final hearing, the court made a declaration that: “The Defendant’s former policy of rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of Housing Benefit was unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability contrary to sections 19 and 29 of the Equality Act 2010”.

Who will benefit and how

Because of this case, we should never see a 'No DSS' policy in a letting advert again. The ruling will go a long way to ensure all renters’ rights are equal, regardless of their life situation or background.

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