Zoopla, a leading property portal website, is to begin refusing advertisements for property lettings which contain instructions from landlords that include ‘No DSS’ or any other block for tenants who receive housing benefit.
Zoopla announced it will prohibit landlords from posting adverts which state ‘No DSS’, which is a commonly used term that refers to an era when housing benefits were paid by a now defunct organisation known as the Department of Social Security.
This follows a recent report conducted by Shelter and The National Housing Federation, which discovered that one in ten letting agents located in England regularly refused to rent property to tenants who receive housing benefit.
Despite the fact that estimates suggest that approximately 890,000 residents within England receive housing benefit payments in order to help fund their monthly rent obligations, it was discovered that No DSS policies are being enforced by agents and landlords, even when a tenant could prove that they can afford the rent payments.
In recent times, there has been some debate concerning the legality of outrightly refusing all tenants who claim housing benefit, and whether this is indirect or direct discrimination. However, according to the MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government), approximately half of all landlords would refuse to rent property to benefit claimants.
Vice Chair of the RLA (Residential Landlords Association), Chris Town, responded to the announcement from Zoopla, and claimed that the decision will be positive news for the sector, as he believes that landlords should not reject tenants solely because they claim benefits. Instead, Mr Town emphasises that landlords should consider potential tenants on an individual case basis. With the number of benefit claimants relying on renting from the private sector growing, more must be done to allow landlords to let to tenants with greater confidence placed in the system for benefits.
These measures will build on the positive changes which have been implemented by the UK government, such as allowing tenants to decide if the housing element of their Universal Credit should be paid to their landlord directly, ending the freeze on Local Housing Allowance and working alongside lenders to remove terms on mortgages which prevent landlords letting property to benefit claimants.
Currently, approximately two thirds of the biggest buy to let mortgage lenders prohibit landlords letting property to tenants claiming housing benefit.
Research conducted by the RLA has discovered that the amount owed in rent arrears on average by tenants claiming Universal Credit has risen by half. In 2017, more than £1,600 was owed in rent arrears on average, rising to around £2,400 12 months later in 2018.
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