Property Ombudsman Warns Landlords Not to Discriminate Against DSS Tenants

Author: Rent Guarantor

18/03/2020

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) is warning landlords and letting agents that they should not discriminate against tenants through a no DSS policy or anything similar to that. The reminder follows two legal cases were the tenants won and settled out of court along with much press coverage over the past 18 months or so.

TPO’s code of practise already includes two clauses highlighting its stance against blanket discrimination against tenants. The body said in a recent blog post it would consider strengthening its code on the detail of No DSS discrimination.

Tenants legal victories

Two tenants, Amanda Staples and Emma Loffler, recently won out-of-court settlements on the grounds of indirect discrimination due to No DSS advertisements and rules around renting a home in the private rental sector (PRS).

Ms Staples became a benefits recipient after the breakdown of her marriage, which also meant the part-time worker with three children needed to find rental accommodation. However, even though she worked, had always paid her rent on time and even offered to pay 12 months rent in advance, she couldn’t; secure a rental home.

Ms Staples received a public letter of apology from a letting agency, £3,000 compensation and the £10,000 legal costs also paid by the agency she took legal action against.

Meanwhile, Ms Loffler gained a similar victory, with a public letter of apology, £3,500 in compensation and £2,500 towards legal costs.

“The message is clear - letting agents and landlords must not treat potential tenants as second-class citizens simply because they rely on benefits,” said Shelter chief executive, Polly Neate. “Not only is 'No DSS' discrimination outdated and grossly unfair, it is unlawful under the Equality Act because it overwhelming impacts women and disabled people, who are more likely to need support paying their rent.”

TPO takes a firm stance

These two recent indirect discrimination victories have encouraged TPO to remind landlords and letting agents that they cannot and should not discriminate against specific groups of people. Each tenancy agreement must be made on an individual basis and in a lawful way.

Indeed, clauses 1e and 1f of TPO’s Code of Practise are already pretty clear on what is and is not permitted by landlords and tenants when it becomes involved in disputes between two parties.

Clause 1e sates landlords and letting agencies must “treat consumers equally regardless of their race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender recognition, disability, pregnancy or maternity, or nationality.”

Clause 1f, meanwhile, includes the following, that landlords and letting agents “take special care when dealing with consumers who might be disadvantaged because of factors such as their age, infirmity, lack of knowledge, lack of linguistic or numeracy ability, economic circumstances, bereavement or do not speak English as a first language.”

For landlords and letting agents who remain concerned over the ability of someone on receipt of benefits to pay their rent, there are other measures they can take to gain peace of mind and safeguard their investment.

Services like the one we offer at Rent Guarantor help make a guarantor process more formal and reliable. We can assess each applicant’s ability to pay their rent, including those in receipt of benefits and where an applicant satisfies our criteria, we can then provide a rent guarantor agreement.

This means you as a landlord know you’ll never be out of pocket if something unexpected happens. Meanwhile, its also peace of mind for the tenant as it means they don’t need to approach family members or close friends to act as a personal guarantor for their rent payments.

In many cases this is the perfect solution to accepting tenants who might rely on benefits to pay part or even all of their rent while also following guidelines and ensuring you’re not indirectly discriminating against any potential tenant.