‘No DSS’ discrimination has been ruled unlawful for the second time in the UK after a disabled man won a trial at Birmingham County Court.
Judge Mary Stacey ruled yesterday that the practice was unlawful and in breach of the Equality Act.
Stacey had based her decision on the grounds of disability, after Stephen Tyler – who uses a wheelchair and lives with mental health issues – was not allowed to view properties advertised by an estate agent due to his receiving housing benefit.
The case marks the second time that ‘No DSS’ discrimination has been found unlawful by a UK court after a similar ruling was made earlier this year in a landmark case at York County Court.
The ruling, which puts landlords and letting agents at risk of legal action if they bar housing benefit tenants from renting, has been praised by housing charity Shelter, which assisted Tyler with the case.
Shelter research shows that No DSS policies unfairly disadvantage women and disabled people in finding a home, as they are more likely to receive housing benefit.
Commenting on this latest ruling, Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, 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.”
Stephen Tyler’s story
Tyler and his family lost their home in February 2018 after they were served with a section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice from their landlord.
The family were left unable to find a new home after Birmingham estate agent Paul Carr told them it was ‘company policy’ to refuse to rent to people who receive housing benefit.
They subsequently applied for homelessness with the local council.
Judge Mary Stacey said in her ruling: “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 PCP [Provision, Criteria or Practice] that those in receipt of housing benefit could not apply to those three properties.”
Polly Neate added: “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 to do better; they must consider tenants fairly based on their ability to afford the rent – not where their income comes from.”
Despite York County Court ruling in July that ‘No DSS’ discriminations were unlawful, it recently emerged that private renters in England in receipt of benefits are still struggling to secure accommodation.
The so-called No DSS rule – a reference to the practice used by some landlords to describe the vetting of a class of tenants they regard as unsuitable – is thought to have prevented hundreds of thousands of people from renting since it was initially introduced.
Main image: Stephen Tyler and Shelter solicitor Rose Arnall outside Birmingham County Court. Credit: Shelter
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