A recent study has brought to light the number of landlords and letting agents who might be breaking equality laws, by refusing to let to those claiming housing benefits.
This research, by the National Housing Federation and Shelter, found that one in five letting agents in England could be breaking the law, by using ‘No DSS’ adverts, which is a direct act of discrimination against those on benefits. Such discrimination is a violation of the Equality Act 2010.
To obtain these results, approximately 86,000 letting agent adverts posted on Zoopla were analysed, all from letting agent branches within the UK. 20% of them were found to contain content that in some way discriminated against those claiming housing benefits.
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, has reported to the press: “It is shameful that a fifth of letting agent branches are doing something potentially unlawful by openly discriminating against people on housing benefit.
“It’s likely that many more letting agents are discriminating too, but our research today shines a light on those who are willing to do so in a really brazen manner online.
“We’ve revealed that these outdated practices are not only pushing people, mainly women, in to homelessness, but that they are probably unlawful. There’s no excuse any more. Everyone must do the right thing, morally and legally, and stop discriminating.”
When it comes to housing, it is unlawful discrimination if you treat someone unfairly based on disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.
It was earlier this year that single mother Rosie Keogh experienced sex discrimination from a letting agent. After they refused to consider her as a tenant for a property in Kings Heath, Birmingham, once they received information that her rent payments were to be supported by benefits, she successfully claimed compensation.
Keogh’s success might partly be thanks to her knowledge as a former paralegal, as she was able to argue that blanket bans on benefit claimants indirectly discriminate against women, in particular single women, as they are proportionately more likely to be claiming housing benefit than single men.
She went on to say: “I felt something had to be done to challenge it. I was motivated by anger at such inequitable practice. It made me feel like a second-class citizen.
“You are being treated differently – and it’s women and women with children who are bearing the brunt of this because they need to work part-time.”