The majority of landlords in Bournemouth openly state that they do not want to let their properties to tenants in receipt of housing benefit, according to listings on a popular website.
Despite a court ruling earlier in the year that made it unlawful to blanket ban people on benefits, nine in 10 landlords in Bournemouth on Spare Room appear to be turning away tenants receiving housing benefit.
Only one property out of 10 listed in Bournemouth on the popular renting site is marked as ‘housing benefit considered’.
Spare Room was displaying a ‘new tenant preferences’ list, which allowed the landlord to consider whether benefits claimants are considered for tenancy or not.
Some landlords are prevented from renting to tenants claiming benefits due to the nature of their Buy to Let mortgages.
A spokesperson for Spare Room said: “Some Buy to Let mortgages do still prohibit landlords from renting to people who receive housing benefit, so we’re changing the advertising process so that a specific mortgage clause is the only reason we’ll allow for saying they won’t rent to tenants on benefits.”
Instead of ‘housing benefits considered’, the site now displays an option to ‘hide ads that can’t accept housing benefit (due to mortgage/insurance restrictions)’, which it argues is necessary for these landlords.
People on housing benefit are often referred to by the acronym DSS – Department for Social Security, the antecedent to the Department for Work and Pensions, which oversees Universal Credit.
In July, a judge at York County Court ruled that blanket ‘No DSS’ rental bans by letting agents are unlawful and discriminatory under the Equality Act.
Because this judgement was from a low-level court, it is not a binding rule for other cases. However, charities and campaigners are hoping it will stick.
Yet, out of 10 Bournemouth properties available on Spare Room, only one was available to tenants in receipt of benefits.
The available property is a top-floor one-bedroom flat, close to Boscombe gardens, which is on the market for £760 per month.
With renting becoming increasingly difficult amid the coronavirus pandemic, research by Shelter shows that almost 230,000 private renters in England have fallen into arrears since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of people claiming unemployment benefits surged to 2.7m between March and July, according to the Office for National Statistics.
In May, the government extended the ban on evicting tenants, and did so again at the end of August. However, the ban is now scheduled to end on 20 September.
Shelter has revealed that, despite the evictions ban, more than 170,000 private tenants have already been threatened with eviction by their landlord or letting agent.
With the furlough scheme scheduled to end in October and the UK officially falling into recession, more people than ever will be relying on benefits to survive.
Polly Neate, Shelter chief executive, has called the discriminatory banning of benefits claimants “outdated” and “grossly unfair”.
She said: “Anyone who is still being turned away from rental properties they can afford, purely because they receive benefits, should write a formal email or letter to the agent asking them to reconsider and reminding them that DSS discrimination is unlawful.”
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