A court in England has ruled that blanket bans on letting properties to people claiming housing benefits are unlawful, discriminatory and contrary to equality laws.
The decision relates to the case of a single mother of two who became homeless after a letting agent refused to rent a property to her.
She had been looking for a new home in October 2018 after being subject to a no-fault eviction by her previous landlord. Despite having positive references from previous landlords and a professional guarantor, she was not given a “chance” due to the letting agency’s ‘No DSS’ company policy.
Homeless charity Shelter took on the woman’s case, having previously backed a number of No DSS cases in which landlords and agents had been found guilty of indirect discrimination, but all had settled before going to court. This was the first case to go to before a judge for a ruling.
District Judge Victoria Mark, sitting in York County Court, held: “Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of sex and disability”.
The finding of indirect discrimination is on the basis that women and those with disabilities are disproportionately more likely to be in receipt of housing benefit, and as such affected by any No DSS letting bans.
Rose Arnall, solicitor at Shelter, said: “This is the first time a court has fully considered a case like this. It finally clarifies that discriminating against people in need of housing benefits is not just morally wrong, it is against the law. This sends a huge signal to letting agents and landlords that they must end these practices and do so immediately.”
Shelter hopes the ruling will send a clear message that landlords or agents who continue to refuse to rent to housing benefit claimants risk legal action.