Is a ban on DSS tenants a form of discrimination? In this month’s column, Sarah Coates-Madden discusses recent moves to highlight the issues facing those claiming housing benefit…
I have always wanted to rent to working tenants only, so I don’t have to deal with the benefits system. Do I have the right to ban people who claim DSS from viewing my property?
Some renters, especially single mothers, are feeling discriminated against by a ban on DSS tenants.
Landlords’ refusal to rent to recipients of housing benefits is not a new issue and has been discussed for quite some time. However, until recently, no one seems to have researched whether this is a problem and if it is widespread.
Earlier this year, Shelter carried out an investigation into landlords and agents who place ‘no DSS’ in their adverts. In my experience, this includes a number of firms in Sheffield.
Undercover researchers posed as prospective renters and they found one in ten of the 149 letting agents they contacted had a branch policy to prohibit anyone claiming housing benefit from viewing a property, whether they could afford the rent or not.
Single mothers, who are more likely to work part time, are complaining this blanket ban is preventing them from renting in certain areas. Some landlords say they apply these terms due to conditions in their mortgages, but thankfully, these types of clauses are increasingly being challenged by financial regulators.
The Residential Landlords Association is reminding landlords they must not discriminate against tenants on benefits, although it is still very important, of course, to verify this does not contravene rules imposed by your lender.
The point is, a decision about who should rent your property ought to be made on a case by case basis, rather than ruling out whole categories of potential tenants without reviewing their personal circumstances.
You should still carry out the usual checks to uncover an applicant’s credit history and obtain references. There is always the possibility of insisting tenants on benefits provide a guarantor as well. This never gives absolute security, but does provide another option for recovering unpaid rent and other losses, should the need arise.
If you have any queries about vetting potential tenants or another private rental property matter, don’t hesitate to contact me on (0114) 218 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org