Housing charity Shelter has begun a new phase of their campaign to end “no DSS” policies from landlords in the United Kingdom, focusing on major online letting agent OpenRent.
Referring to the former Department of Social Security and meaning landlords will reject those who are benefit and welfare claimants out of hand, “no DSS” policies are an immense obstacle to those on low incomes who are seeking rented accommodation.
Alongside being one of the country’s leading letting agents, OpenRent is also noted as being one of the major offenders when it comes to discrimination against those claiming benefits with as many as two-thirds of the properties listed on their website having a “no DSS” policy by OpenRent’s own admission.
Research by Shelter suggests that the policy is even worse with as little as 11% of listings accepting benefit claimants.
“You might have seen the OpenRent advertisements asking for ‘good’ tenants and ‘good’ landlords to join its letting community. But some good tenants can’t access two-thirds of the properties on OpenRent. They can’t even apply for them. Why? Because they receive benefits. Even though they have always paid their rent on time, and taken care of their homes, these tenants are being locked out of properties across the UK. This is unlawful discrimination and could lead to people becoming homeless.”Shelter
Shelter has published an open letter to OpenRent from a group of tenants and landlords challenging the company to change its policy and meet face-to-face with the concerned group. The group consists of tenants who have been victims of discriminatory anti-DSS policies and landlords who back the campaign.
Writing as an update to their website following the publication of the letter, OpenRent stated that decisions to accept benefit claimants is up to individual landlords.
“It is up to a landlord to decide who they let their property to. We would encourage all landlords to consider each application on its individual merits… At OpenRent, we have no public or tacit policies against tenants who claim benefits. We never advise landlords not to select tenants who claim the benefits they are entitled to. We invite landlords to consider all prospective tenants on their individual circumstances and offer tenancy creation support to all landlords, including detailed guidance on how to make tenancies work when tenants fail referencing.”OpenRent
One of the signatories to the new letter from Shelter is Rosie Keogh who in 2018 won compensation for sex discrimination after a lettings agency refused to consider her as a tenant under a “no DSS” policy. Keogh successfully argued that the policies indirectly discriminated against women as women are statistically more likely to be claiming housing benefits than men.
“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.”Rosie Keogh
Shelter’s campaigns against “no DSS” policies have focused on a wide range of businesses, letting agents and landlords who engage in the policy of discrimination. The campaign has already seen success over the past year in ensuring that mortgage providers and property portals end discrimination against those in receipt of housing benefits with the majority of banks who had such policies ending them.