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.