More than 300 properties are likely to be advertised unlawfully by explicitly discriminating against people who rely on housing benefit, new research from the National Housing Federation and Shelter shows.
The analysis of around 5,500 adverts in the area shows that 353 adverts for different residential properties in the north east say ‘no DSS’ or ‘no housing benefit’ – equivalent to one in 15.[i]
There are more than 66,000 people on housing benefit and living in privately rented accommodation in the north east.[ii] Women and people with disabilities are disproportionately in this situation and therefore affected by discrimination.[iii] Indirectly discriminating against woman and people with disabilities, by banning people on housing benefit, is likely to violate the 2010 Equality Act.
Zoopla are not the only online property platform to facilitate this potentially unlawful practice. Previous research has found numerous discriminatory adverts across all major property platforms including RightMove, SpareRoom.com and OpenRent[iv].
Worryingly, these explicitly discriminatory adverts are only the tip of the iceberg. Many other adverts imply that DSS is not accepted by saying ‘professionals only’. Previous research from Shelter and the National Housing Federation revealed how many housing benefit tenants are rejected by letting agents over the phone, regardless of whether they can afford the rent or not.[v]
The National Housing Federation and Shelter have joined forces to urge letting agents and landlords to end this likely unlawful practice. They are also calling on online property websites to stop facilitating this grossly unfair discrimination.
Monica Burns, External Affairs Manager for the north east at the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations in England, social landlords to around 6 million people, says:
“This research shows that blatant discrimination against people on housing benefit is widespread. Landlords and letting agents are pushing people towards homelessness and could be breaking equality law. It is beyond me why property websites are permitting these adverts. They’re sending the message that they’re ok discriminating against someone, simply because they’re on benefits. This has to change.
“Many housing associations were created in the 50s and 60s in reaction to discrimination and racism from private landlords who wouldn’t house migrants, and said “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.” Today’s discrimination is hardly any different and we refuse to turn a blind eye.”
Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter says:
“It’s staggering to see this discrimination laid out in black and white – and brazenly enforced by letting agents, landlords and online property websites. ‘No DSS’ is outdated, offensive and causing misery for thousands.
“Families are finding themselves barred from renting homes time and time again, simply because they need a Housing Benefit top up. At a time when colossal private rents are out of reach for so many, that seems absurd.
“Not only is ‘No DSS’ grossly unfair, it is likely to be unlawful because it overwhelming affects women and disabled people. That’s why we need the lettings industry to stop blaming each other, accept its role in this shocking practice and clean up its act.”
[i] The NHF looked at the latest 100 advertisements associated with each postcode area. We then removed any duplications of adverts and any listings which were for commercial property, land, garages etc. This left us with 85,972 adverts for different properties available to rent. These adverts were coded into two categories, “Y” or “N”. “N” properties were those where the advert explicitly stated that nobody on benefits would be considered.
[ii] NHF calculated an estimate for the number of adults on housing benefit in England using DWP Stat-Xplore tool. Figure correct at Nov 2018.
[iii] Women make up 59.1% of adults in households dependent on housing benefit in the private rented sector in England, while only 50.6% of the English population is female. Similarly, 12.7% of people dependent on housing benefit in the private rented sector in England are also claiming disability-related benefits, compared to only 5.2% of the general population. Sources: DWP Stat-Xplore; ONS; Wave 7 of Understanding Society survey.
[iv] BBC, No DSS: Most flat shares refuse benefit claimants, 7th March 2017
[v] National Housing Federation and Shelter, 22nd August, 2017