Housing Benefit UK: ‘No DSS’ ban ruled unlawful in Court – renting precedent to be set

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Housing benefit can help eligible claimants cover their rent if they’re unemployed, on a low income or claiming separate benefits. It will eventually be replaced entirely by Universal Credit but as it stands, claimants may receive payments which can cover all rent costs.

While Housing Benefit is designed to ensure that rent covered, it has been reported that for a long time letting agents and landlords have been putting in place so-called “no DSS”, “no benefits” or “no Universal Credit” polices to limit private renters from accessing accommodation if they receive state support.

This has been a controversial element of the renting market but in July, Judge Victoria Mark ruled the following in the courts: “Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of sex and disability.”

This ruling was hailed by many as it may have set a precedent for affected benefit claimants and today it has been revealed that a similar case has been won, adding more legitimacy to the argument.

Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, revealed that a disabled dad has won his legal trial against Housing Benefit discrimination at Birmingham County Court, with the judgement handed down yesterday.

The claimant, Stephen Tyler (29), was able to successfully prove that “no DSS” discrimination is unlawful and in breach of the Equality Act after he was barred from viewing properties advertised by a Birmingham estate agent, who barred him on the grounds of receiving Housing Benefit.

Judge Mary Stacey analysed the merits of the case and ruled the following: “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.”

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As she continued: “We make a declaration that the defendant has unlawfully indirectly discriminated against the claimant by imposing a PCP [Provision, Criteria or Practice] that those in receipt of housing benefit could not apply to those three properties”.

This case came about as Mr Tyler’s family lost their home in 2018 after they asked the landlord to make some disability adaptations to their home, and (according to Shelter) the landlord responded by serving the family with a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice.

As Mr Tyler began to look for a new property to rent he was told by estate agent Paul Carr that it was “company policy” to refuse to rent to people who receive housing benefit.

Mr Tyler himself provided the following comments to the ruling: “I feel relieved that it’s over.

“It’s been a very stressful time.

“It is amazing to have won – not just for me but for the tens of thousands of people like me facing this discrimination.

“Hopefully now it’s clear that the law is on our side, things will change.” 

Shelter supported Stephen throughout the case and Polly Neate, the chief executive of the organisation, also commented on the verdict: “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.”

While Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit, it is still possible to make a new claim for the benefit if any of the following apply:

  • The claimant is getting the severe disability premium, or are entitled to it
  • They got or were entitled to the severe disability premium within the last month and are still eligible for it
  • They have reached State Pension age
  • They are in supported, sheltered or temporary housing

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