Benefits Ban on Tenants Is Discrimination, Rules Judge

A judge has ruled that a blanket policy refusing to rent a home to a tenant claiming benefits is against the law. 

Sitting at York County Court, District Judge Victoria Mark decided that a letting agent who rejected an application to rent a home from a single mum of two breached equality laws. 

In the case, backed by housing charity Shelter, the unnamed mum explained she was looking for a home in October 2018 after spending nine years renting the same property.

"I was shocked and found it very unfair that they wouldn't even give me a chance. "I had excellent references from both my landlords of the last nine years as I've always paid my rent on time and I had a professional guarantor. 

"I could have paid up to six months' rent in advance because my parents lent me the amount. 

"When the letting agent wouldn't take me because of a company policy, I felt offended that after all those years when I have prided myself on paying my rent, paying my bills, being a good tenant, it just meant nothing. 

"When I realised, I was going to be homeless because I couldn't find anywhere, I felt sick to my stomach."

The judge found that the mum was indirectly discriminated against when the letting agent refused her application.

"Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of sex and disability,” said Judge Mark.

Rose Arnall, the Shelter solicitor who has led the charity's legal challenges on the issue, 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."

As the Nearly Legal Blog points out, this is not a ban on refusing to let housing benefit tenants. It’s having a “no DSS” or similar policy, which is unlawful, and anyone who wants to apply for a tenancy should be allowed to do so.

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Housing Benefit, Local Housing Allowance and Universal Credit

Persons with low or no income who have a liability to pay rent may be entitled to housing benefit, which is currently being replaced in phases by Universal Credit.