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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Renters demand landlords end ‘No DSS’ discrimination

This Saturday renters in London are taking to the streets in a “day of action” calling for an end to what they describe as “discriminatory practices” which deny housing to people in receipt of benefits. 

The ‘Yes DSS’ campaign, launched by private renter group Digs calls on letting agents, landlords and mortgage lenders to remove blanket ‘No DSS’ policies that are becoming increasingly common across London. 

Digs phoned 50 letting agents in Hackney and found only one property, a one studio flat in the north of the borough that was available to people who claim housing benefit.

The number of working people claiming benefits to cover their rent has doubled in five years according to House of Commons statistics. When the Coalition Government introduced caps to housing benefit it justified them partly by saying they would encourage landlords to bring down inflated rents. But Digs claims rents in the capital have spiralled way above inflation and median earnings.

On Saturday, renters and campaigners will be targeting a series of Hackney letting agents who refuse to let to people on housing benefit in a colourful, theatrical demonstration, starting outside Hackney Town Hall. They’ll be publicly naming and shaming those agents that impose a blanket ‘No DSS’ policy. 

The ‘Yes DSS’ campaign calls for:

  • An end to ‘No DSS’ discrimination against people on housing benefit
  • A pledge from letting agents only to market properties that would consider tenants in the receipt of housing benefit

Heather Kennedy from Digs said: “Where in the landlord rule book does it say that carers, disabled people, single parents or people on low incomes make bad tenants? These are just some of the groups of people discriminated against when agents, landlords and mortgage lenders say ‘No DSS’. 

“Where are all these people expected to live? With home ownership far beyond the reach of normal people and no access to social housing, the private rented sector is the only housing option more and more for us have open to us. And yet people are being denied their last chance of finding a home because landlords and agents, with increasing power to discriminate, unfairly tarnish everyone claiming benefits as undesirable. 

“We will no longer tolerate this kind of naked discrimination in our community from agents and landlords making huge amounts of money from people just desperate to find somewhere to live.” 

Eva, mum-of-one and member of Digs said: “My son was 16-months-old when we moved into our rented flat. When we got our eviction notice, he was almost six. I was dreading the day the eviction notice came through the door. Even though I have been a model tenant, I have paid my rent without fail every month, I have maintained the property, I knew how rents in the area had shot up and I knew my landlord would be looking to make more money from the property than I could afford to pay.

“I started looking for another flat in walking distance of my son’s school. I work full time and was able to find a couple of flats in my price range. But when I told the letting agent I claim a small amount of housing benefit each month because my wages don’t cover my rent, each and every one of them turned me away, saying they don’t take people on DSS. 

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    I completely understand the frustration of decent people who need to claim benefits looking for somewhere to live. I used to house up to ten families and individuals on benefits, but now I am down to 3. The reason for this is that certain councils refuse to work with Landlords. They change the allowances to tenants with no warning, backdate enormous (and often fictitious) overpayments which the tenant has no hope of paying. If you want to gain possession of your property because you have not been paid correctly or at all by the housing department, then tenants are advised not to move out until the bailiffs come. This usually takes 5 to six months and will cost not less than £1000 in costs plus often no payments of rent. I am currently £3000 down in the last 12 months on one property in Folkestone even though the tenants are not working and always had a legitimate claim. I get paid direct from the said council, but they start and stop payments as they wish with no regard for my contract with the tenants. This has happened repeatedly over the last ten years even though I have made it quite clear that I would be happy to have benefit recipients if the process did not leave me out of pocket time and time again.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    Increasingly rare in London, we actually used to accept DSS Tenants and had several very successful tenancies. However, the councils have made this increasingluy difficult in an effort to alienate private Landlords. Their rental payments are a nightmare for accounting as they insist on paying in 4 week cycles instead of calendar month like everyone else. What is more, with limited housing and a long waiting list, the likelihood of a DSS Tenant being rehoused at another DSS property without the Landlord/Agent having ti go through eviction proceedings is next to nothing. As such, what Landlord wants to take a Tenant when so much is stacked against them. The council teams are also incredibly rude and aggressive to agents and Landlords alike- we have a DSS tenant with mental health issues whi is damaging a property whilst making false claims and all that happens is we get very aggressive threatening letters from the council. After 10 years f accepting DSS tenants we stopped in Jan 2015 after too many bad experiences- not with tenants but with councils.

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    Nothing like targeting the wrong people 'Yes DSS'.

    Try the local councils who actively encourage defaulting tenants or the government which refuses to build social housing. Or - shock horror - those benefit tenants who default on their rents and give everybody else a bad name.

    Or does that not give you enough media coverage?

  • CRJ Lettings

    Many buy-to-let mortgages and landlord insurance policies restrict renting to those in receipt of housing benefit.

    Try lobbying the government to return to paying the housing benefit direct to landlords and I suspect many of these institutions and landlords themselves will soften towards accepting 'DSS' tenants.

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    I employed a DSS girl (less tha 16 hours).. the DSS cut her benefits immediately causing her to get into debt withthe council, who then threatened to evict her... they made such a mess of her benefits that she stopped working for me.. Now is on the dole... I wouldn't never have tenants under DSS and if a tenant ended up out of work, then they would be given notice. I'm sick of supporting the government. I CAN NOT AFFORD IT.

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    This will only get worse as the Government increases the tax burden on Landlords aka Tenant Tax aka Clause24. As the Government has capped Housing Benefit as well is it any wonder Landlords are shunning such tenants. Don't blame Landlords and agents look at the real culprits - George Osborne and the Tory government.

  • Claire  Empson

    Um, actually the unofficial rulebook these days DOES say council tenants are bad tenants, almost everyone I know that has rented this way ends up with a negative story, no matter how much they want to help and sympathise - landlords are not charities or social workers - something the DSS claimants seem to not realise - it's entirely up to them who they rent to. If this campaign actually succeeded, it would be one more nail in the coffin of landlords willing to keep in the industry at all. If things carry on, there will be no more rented housing full stop that isn't owned by large companies building blocks of flats who don't actually care about their properties - a return to ghettos. The government need to build more social housing, stop selling it off to the people who used to need it and then don't leaving the people further down the chain unable to access it, and leave the private landlords to rent to private tenants or pay directly the ones that do want to help by calendar month, promise not to claw back the money and stop advising tenants to stay put until evicted. This group need to march on council offices or government, not address the landlords!

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