Following a judgement in the County Court on 1 July, refusing to rent your home to a tenant because they are on housing benefit has now been ruled unlawful. The case revolved around a disabled single mother who challenged a letting agent for rejecting her application to rent a home on the basis that she was receiving benefits.
Prior to this landmark ruling, previous cases where renters have challenged what has become known as ‘no DSS’ policies (despite the Department of Social Security being dissolved in 2001!) have been settled out of court. This time, supported by Shelter, the case was determined in court and the letting agent was found to be in breach of the Equality Act. As a result, the agent was ordered to pay the claimant £3,500 plus costs.
In 2018, Shelter carried out research into online advertising in the private rented sector and found at least one in 10 adverts stated they would not accept tenants on housing benefit. Now, that will have to stop. Instead, landlords will have to consider every applicant on an individual basis, carrying out careful referencing instead of simply using ‘no DSS’ as a blanket ban on people they regard as potentially a higher financial risk.
In April, we looked at the subject of renting to tenants on Universal Credit and offered some helpful tips for making sure the landlord-tenant relationship works. The blog includes a link to a helpful guide explaining ‘Alternative Payment Arrangements’. This is where the housing element of Universal Credit is paid directly to the landlord, giving both parties the certainty that rent payments will be made on time. And if a tenant is already in arrears, the landlord can also apply for ‘Third-party Deductions’ whereby an additional amount is taken monthly from the claimant’s personal allowance to reduce the debt over time.
Many people on benefits have never been in arrears or caused problems for their previous landlord. Simply making assumptions about potential tenants on the basis of their personal circumstances is no longer an option – so make sure you do your homework when you’re looking for a new tenant. Don’t fall foul of the law and risk the chance of getting involved in a costly court case.
As we blogged yesterday, our cloud-based lettings platform PlanetRent automates rent payments, which also makes it easy for tenants to budget and to keep up-to-date – and it makes referencing really quick and easy for landlords. PlanetRent takes care of your marketing too. So why not download it today – it’s pay-as-you-go and works across all your devices.
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