Shelter help disabled tenant win second ‘No DSS’ case

by Nick Thompson

11:14 AM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

Shelter help disabled tenant win second ‘No DSS’ case

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Shelter help disabled tenant win second ‘No DSS’ case

Judge Mary Stacey has ruled in favour of Stephen Tyler in County Court that a Birmingham letting agent unlawfully prevented him from viewing a property on the basis that he was in receipt of housing benefit.

Stephen Tyler, aged 29 and disabled, was represented by Shelter solicitor, Rose Arnall, who successfully argued that a blanket ban on allowing viewings for prospective tenants in receipt of housing benefits was a breach of the Equality Act because it disproportionally affects disabled people, who are more likely to need rental income support.

Sheltered represented their own finding indicating that 45% of private renters who claim disability benefits also claim housing benefit.

Judge Mary Stacey said: “There is no doubt that there was a blanket policy that no one in receipt of housing benefit would be considered for the three properties. It put the claimant and other disabled people at a particular disadvantage when compared to others.

“To be told simply, because of his benefit status that he could not apply for three properties which were perfectly located for his children’s school, his GP and health needs, and extended family support would be distressing.

“We make a declaration that the defendant has unlawfully indirectly discriminated against the claimant by imposing a provision, criteria or practice that those in receipt of housing benefit could not apply to those three properties.”

Responded to the ruling Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate, said: “Shelter has been fighting ‘No DSS’ discrimination for the past two years, because we know it pushes people to the brink of homelessness and leaves many feeling worthless.

“This win proves yet again that blanket bans against people on housing benefit are unlawful because they overwhelmingly bar women and disabled people like Stephen, who are more likely to need help with their rent, from finding a safe home.

“It’s senseless that people who can afford private rents are being forced into homelessness by blind prejudice. It’s now time for landlords and letting agents  do better; they must consider tenants fairly based on their ability to afford the rent not where their income comes from and Shelter will continue campaigning until ‘No DSS’ is fully stamped out.”


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Comments

David

11:52 AM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

All very well but as has been said before Shelter dont provide any actual housing but instead pay Polly Neate an over inflated salary and employ expensive lawyers. If DSS was paid on time and directly at the full market rent to landlords and mortgage/insurance companies viewed DSS in the same light as non DSS tenants that might be a different matter. As usual all very one sided and obviously missing the fact that landlord's should have equal rights and the choice who they rent to.

Chris @ Possession Friend

12:03 PM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

Refusal of Tenants in receipt of benefit needs to be a lot smarter to match Shelter.
e.g
1 ) The property is rented at £ x per month, what is your benefit payment, lets see proof. ( Shelters own figures show 97% of the countries LHA is below market rent )
2 ) Rent is required in advance, benefit is paid in arrears, ( sorry, Shelter seemed to have given you false hope, suggest you take up LHA rates and UC payment processes with your M.P. and ask Shelter to help )
3 ) Landlord requires a suitable Guarantor with unlimited liability. ( you could ask Shelter, they have plenty of funds )

Robert Mellors

12:18 PM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

I don't know why any landlord or agent has a blanket ban, it is not necessary, they can simply choose their tenant based on affordability and risk, assessed on a case by case basis. If someone on benefits can afford the rent, and the rent in advance and deposit, and has a guarantor, etc, then there should be no restriction on letting to them (let alone allowing them to view the property). The letting agent was clearly wrong in this case, and I would personally agree that this does appear to be discrimination.

However, as already pointed out, Shelter provide no shelter to anyone, they don't provide any homes, or provide any assistance such as deposit bonds to help people access accommodation. Perhaps when they start doing this, then they would be helping far more people.

Ron H-W

12:45 PM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

How about this risk, however unlikely, which I really don't think would be underwritten by Shelter (or anybody else!):
* Arrangements are made for landlord to be paid direct - great!
* But they then discover tenant is working undisclosed, or appears to be at another address, or ...
* So they "claw back" the last couple of years' rent!
How many landlords feel they can afford to can take a hit of over £20K (if rent is £835 per month)?
And it seems that, on the grounds of confidentiality, the benefit payer is unlikely to enter into discussion with the landlord (apart from simply demanding repayment).

Fortunately I haven't had such experience (yet?), but imagine a landlord who has already suffered in this way -- Is he legally obliged to lay himself open to "more of the same"?

reader

12:54 PM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

Why waste the renters time and effort applying for something they lack the means to pay for. This case merely gives a right to apply for something that cannot be afforded.
Right, I'm off to Cannes to buy a super yatch. No chance of affording it but I will enjoy the experience!

Prakash Tanna

13:05 PM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Robert Mellors at 09/09/2020 - 12:18
Totally agree and resonate the same sentiments.

Monty Bodkin

13:13 PM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

https://www.express.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/1168870/universal-credit-uk-claim-housing-costs-payment-rent-arrears

Half of landlords letting to claimants saw them fall into rent arrears

Compared to less than 10% of working tenants in arrears.

Naomi Black

14:47 PM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

How about the fact that insuring your rental property gets loaded by about £150/200 because you have a tenant in receipt of benefit to help pay for the rent

Robert Mellors

15:10 PM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Naomi Black at 09/09/2020 - 14:47
Perhaps Shelter can help by prosecuting the insurance companies for discrimination against DSS claimants?

Likewise I'm sure Shelter would be happy to prosecute the banks for considering people on benefits to be high risk and not giving them a loan (or charging more interest if they do grant a loan)?

The normal rules of business, e.g. high risk = charge more, does not seem to apply to landlords (it's outlawed), so all you can do is allow everyone to apply, allow everyone to view, but then do your own assessment of financial viability, and so long as you do it in a fair way, then you can choose whichever potential tenant you want, e.g. the one that can prove affordability and offer the best level of risk mitigation (deposits, rent in advance, rent and damage guarantors, etc).

BobG

17:04 PM, 9th September 2020
About 2 months ago

Yes I agree , don't prejudge benefit tenants and work on the ability to pay the rent and pass a credit check. I have a number of very good benefit tenants who have been with me for many years, one for fifteen plus years. My concern is the failure of one particular council to pay me direct even after the tenant was £5 000 in arrears, saying unless the tenant suffered from mental health issues I should resolve the problem myself.
By applying on line I finally managed to get direct payment from UC but as a previous member mentioned, tenants can overturn this quite easily. I have now successfully obtained possession but delayed by Covid.
The DWP fail to recognise that some tenants will not pass benefit payments to the landlord and this will ultimately result in the loss of their home - and the council will need to rehouse them - not rocket science.

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