Shelter help disabled tenant win second ‘No DSS’ case

by Property 118

11:14 AM, 9th September 2020
About 3 weeks 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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Monty Bodkin

17:23 PM, 9th September 2020
About 3 weeks ago

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/09/disabled-homeless-man-wins-no-dss-case-birmingham-estate-agency-renting-housing

A spokesperson for Paul Carr Estate Agents said it was disappointed at the outcome of the case, which it claimed was based on a “simple and isolated administrative error”.
They added: “We are merely the victims of Shelter’s desire to drive their own political agenda against letting agents in the private rental sector. As a leading and reputable letting agent we always adhere to the law and protect our landlord clients to the best of our ability, in what is an ever increasing arena of negative legislation.
“We had already changed our policy regarding the advertising of ‘no DSS’ many months prior to this incident, as we believed it was the right way forward for all concerned.”

SimonR

11:00 AM, 11th September 2020
About 2 weeks ago

The key here is how the response is worded, when we get enquiries from prospective tenants in receipt of benefits i make it clear that they will be considered but they must pass the referencing criteria same as everyone else and part of that process is an affordability check. If they fail the affordability check they will not be considered for the property. I also stress that they must pay the first month in advance and also the security deposit, all future rental payments to be paid in advance and that we do not accept 4 weekly payments as this will put the account in to arrears.

AP

8:53 AM, 12th September 2020
About 2 weeks ago

A lot of BTL mortgage conditions state no letting to tenants on benefits.
As usual Shelter is going after the easy targets - the letting agent who they can show advertised that way.
If they really wanted to help, they should get mortgage and insurance companies to change their clauses, then get govt to pay market rent in advance / provide rental guarantees themselves.
Or alternatively build enough social housing so there is no need for housing benefit paid to private landlords at all. Surely that would keep everyone happy and drive up standards all round?
But no, they want private individuals to address the successive government failings.

moneymanager

16:35 PM, 12th September 2020
About 2 weeks ago

Recognising the first case I recenlty listed a two bed in an upmarket development in a northern city, having ticked the "accept DSS" option I was getting some seriously bizarre applications, there was never any response to even the simplest of questions like "why do you want an expensive flat 300 miles fromwhere you now live?". Having wasted a deal of time I have changed the Yes to No and just added some more criteria driven text in the add itself, it worked.

Mick Roberts

11:55 AM, 15th September 2020
About 2 weeks ago

Shelter are really not helping tenants here.
Only yesterday I had Fraud case, 50+ year old innocent woman benefits got stopped. Cause UC Fraudster set up fraudulent UC claim in her name. Fraudster got paid. 50 year old innocent woman had no benefits for 3 months.
Fraudster wun't have been paid, had UC had a policy that has shown to work with HB for 23+ years & that is ASK THE LANDLORD FOR PROOF. Cause the very important Landlord who supplies the £100,000+ house wasn't asked & is excluded from DWP UC in checking & progressing, Fraudster was allowed to claim thousands of taxpayers money.

All avoidable! And that Shelter is another reason why we not taking Benefit tenants. Let's sort the DWP system out.

An external report just now has said DWP tenants are suffering cause of no permission to talk to Landlord. We've been telling Neil Couling UC Director this since 2013. Not listened one bit. However now they thinking of giving Housing Associations permission AGAIN excluding the very important Landlord.

These are such simple things to solve. DWP just caught up in their own culture.

Chris @ Possession Friend

20:02 PM, 15th September 2020
About 2 weeks ago

More and more Landlords will be driven away from even ' CONSIDERING ' renting to a tenant in receipt of benefit as a result of Shelter's involvement.

Landlords - letting Agents will just be handling it a lot differently. There won't ' be No DSS adverts, but there will ( Obviously, well to some ) be affordability criteria that renters on benefit won't be able to satisfy.

Mandy Thomson

10:11 AM, 24th September 2020
About 3 days ago

Dare I comment here from both sides of this argument?

As a small private landlord myself, I have to confess I am nervous about letting to housing benefit claimants even though I agree the vast majority of them make decent tenants who pay their rent and look after their homes. However, I also feel that refusing housing benefit claimants carte blanche is completely unfair.

Why I have reservations about HB tenants

There is no denying that rogue tenants are more likely to claim housing benefit (though I accept that non benefit claimants can be lousy tenants too, even those on high salaries).

When considering HB tenancy applicants, I find they often expect more changes to my properties and sometimes these are unreasonable. For example, wanting a newly painted flat painted again in a different colour. However, this is because they are trying to make do with a property they wouldn’t otherwise have considered because their choice is so limited. One applicant (who was in work but didn’t earn enough so needed housing benefit to top up) initially rejected my property then came back a week later asking to be reconsidered but brought a bucket list of desired changes with her.

There are vagaries to the housing benefit system, but again, much of this is caused by claimants with “chaotic lifestyles” not complying with the requirements of setting up and maintaining the claim.

Mostly, housing benefit is capped at a much lower rate than real market rents (as we know only too well) but there are a small number of claimants who will get their full, or near their full rent, paid (for example, pensioners on guaranteed pension credit or a disabled tenant awarded a discretionary housing payment).

Why I nevertheless think blanket bans are unfair

I believe nevertheless landlords should look at an applicant's individual situation and properly assess their affordability based on an accurate projection of the housing benefit they would expect to get if they were renting the property they're applying for.

I have a friend who is trying to move his elderly disabled mother to his area. The lady has rented in the social sector for many years, and has always been a good tenant. She lives in a retired housing scheme and that is what she looking for in both the private and social sectors in her son’s area. She currently gets guaranteed pension credit and has tried to impress upon the letting agents that this would likely cover her full rent, less utilities and service charges that she could afford.

After previously helping to move another elderly relative, this time to a specialist private retirement housing provider who know how to reference housing benefit claimants, my friend suggested the agents use one of the government approved benefit assessment tools. This landlord accepts housing benefit because they understand that elderly tenants are more likely to require it and are not in much position to change their economic position. Unfortunately, neither this landlord nor another specialist retirement landlord currently has anything available in the area.

My friend wants to move his mother before winter and another lockdown – this more or less rules out the social sector, hence why they're looking on the open market. However, my friend was told he would need to stand as guarantor (which he is happy to do) but as his income has been affected by COVID, he is not currently earning enough. In my opinion, this is not necessary as with his mother on guaranteed pension credit I would say he need only guarantee a third of her rent, but they are expecting him to guarantee 3 – 3.5 times rent.

I believe this is lack of knowledge of the retirement market and how to assess a housing benefit tenant for affordability, compounded by a "computer says no" approach on the part of the agents.

To finish, yes, it would be nice if Shelter would offer guarantees for housing benefit tenants, and moreover, provide information and guidance to the private sector on how to reference such tenants, instead of alienating us private landlords and letting agents.

BobG

11:39 AM, 26th September 2020
About 19 hours ago

Hi
I have no problems treating benefit tenants the same as everyone else including requiring a credit check. In the past I had a vicar who turned a large property into an HMO and have also had a company director who was a very poor tenant. I have a number of tenants on benefits and for the most part it works well. The problem for me is when a tenant is getting UC and does not pass on the housing element to me. DWP have in the past told my letting agent there is nothing they can do as the tenant is not suffering any form of mental illness. This was when the tenant owed £8 000 plus, and I had obtained a successful eviction judgement. DWP fail to understand some claimants take advantage of the system. This is what puts me off renting to tenants on benefit.

Mick Roberts

17:19 PM, 26th September 2020
About 13 hours ago

Reply to the comment left by BobG at 26/09/2020 - 11:39U say it exactly BobG,
UC won't work with us Landlords at all, whether they like it or not & whether we are good or bad, we are very important in the tenants life. Work with us & we reduce the homeless massively. We only asking for the rent, nothing more. Why not work with someone who is providing Shelter, when if we do have to evict & don't take UC again, each homeless person costs roughly 10k to house from the very first phone call, that is a colossal amount, we can help the Govt & Councils not have to spend that.
Never mind the human cost to the tenant & kids & moving schools etc.

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