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BTL landlords urged to review ‘advertising material and vetting policies’

A specialist property litigation firm is warning buy-to-let landlords not to discriminate against benefit claimants, following a recent landmark ruling that has far-reaching consequences for all buy-to-let landlords and letting agencies in England and Wales. 

The practice of refusing to rent homes to those in receipt of housing benefit was ruled unlawful last month, and this should simply not be ignored by BTL landlords, according to Hägen Wolf, a property litigation specialist.  

In a case that was heard at the York County Court in July, a 44-year-old disabled single mother of two challenged a letting agent for rejecting her application for a privately rented property on the basis of her being in receipt of housing benefit.


District Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark ruled that the tenant had experienced indirect discrimination, with the letting agent found to have breached the Equality Act. 

Matt Pugh, managing partner of Hägen Wolf, said: “While County Court decisions are not binding, it is likely that this case will be relied upon in similar cases in future and should there be an appeal to the High Court, the appeal decision would be binding.” 


But despite this ruling, landlords have hit back at claims of ‘No DSS’ discrimination.

A survey of more than 800 landlords from across the UK, carried out by Landlord Today, has revealed that 57% of buy-to-let landlords do not ‘accept that refusing DSS tenants is discrimination’. 

However, the practice of excluding potential tenants simply because they are on housing benefits will now have to be addressed by landlords and agents alike, according to Pugh. 

He added: “The ruling means that letting agents and private landlords will have to review their advertising material and vetting policies to ensure that renters who rely on housing benefits are no longer automatically barred from renting from private landlords.  

“There is, however, nothing to stop landlords pricing such tenants out of the market or relying on other non-discriminatory criteria.” 

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Poll: Do you accept that refusing DSS tenants is discrimination?


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    So we cannot say NO DSS, but when they waste every one's time we can still say sorry not suitable without giving a reason.

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    So we state “must be in full time employment“, supposing that will be discriminatory to the lazy ones who don’t want to work

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    This just presents additional burden on your LA to seem impartial. It will be frustrating for Dss to never know for sure why they don’t get a tenancy. The game changer will be when Shelter succeed in being able to govern selection of who goes into our properties and effectively overrule our choice of tenant. It’s heading in that direction


    Well then Shelter may like to stand guarantor for those tenants ???

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    Oh dear. The three people above still want to discriminate against potential tenants just because they are DHSS recipients. By all means discriminate against individual people if they do not the means to reliably pay the rent, or because they have a bad track record with previous tenancies, etc. etc. - but not because they fit into a certain category of person. That legal legal was made for a valid very reason. Sorry landlords, you may not like this, but it's absolutely correct. (One of my best tenants was a DHSS claimant!)


    David past experience, 30 yrs, have taught me that I am unlikely to get my rent paid by people on benefits, would you trust a bunch of travelers to tarmac your drive at home ? all boils down to the same thing, who we can trust and who we cannot.


    Well that’s great news you David Wirth can have all my dss applicants. You can deal with the 4 weekly in arrears payments. You can deal with a council when the claim stops due to ‘changes in circumstances’ because the violent ex boyfriend moves back in. You know the one the tenant originally moved away from. You can deal with the extra wear & tear on your property because they are in there 24/7. (Hope none of your places has a microbe of mould in them to claim against but they soon will be)
    Patronising us who put the deposits down and rely on property for our income. Who do do you think you are?


    you are a fool

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    Sorry Andrew, but 'unlikely to get my rent paid by people on benefits' is not the basis to justify discriminating against a whole group of people, some of whom would be perfectly good tenants. Look at the individual, not which social or economic group they belong to.
    That legal ruling is 100% right - even if some landlords don't like it. And if you still don't wish to take any DHSS tenants - then please don't continue as a landlord. Non-discrimination is the path to a just society where people are judged by their character, not their group characteristics.
    And then - if that DHSS tenant still proves unreliable - then by all means take necessary action.


    As well as being totally misguided, you're years out of date as the DHSS split into NHS and DSS years ago. We still won't take DSS claimants as there are plenty of hard working more reliable tenants available but we'll now have to waste everyone's time in sifting them out. Like every leftie initiative it will be counter productive to the people they think they are supporting. Decent hard working tenants will still get the priority they deserve but they might have to wait a bit longer whilst we sort through the dross that we can't just ignore now.


    David I fully intend to continue as a landlord and I will decide who I rent my property to .

    • 06 August 2020 16:10 PM

    I have a vacant flat which any DSS tenant would love.
    On principle I will not Let to them.

    But anyway my lender won't allow it and my Council requires a valid AST before they will even bother calculating what any entitlement might be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Then there are all the other issues with the DSS system.

    You are a very naive LL.

    But your business risk you are entitled to make.

    Just don't force us more sensible LL to follow your bonkers business methodology.

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    you really are a fool--or a shelter plant?


    Its actually a good thing Terry. Scam tenants are always on the lookout for foolish LL's and as proven above they do exist. Keeps them away from us professional LL's.

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    • 06 August 2020 10:14 AM

    David Wirth, I like how you say take necessary action as if it were that easy. The reason landlords avoid DSS is not because of the individual but because of a broken system that makes dealing with it a high risk strategy. If you have a choice between a professional and a DSS why opt for the higher risk? I recently started accepting DSS and every single one of them has had issues in a space of weeks. Versus having had over 70 professional tenants previously, and only one of those causing an issue, albeit unintentionally. If DSS became a lower risk, with iron clad guarantors and we could evict within a reasonable time frame if there were issues then I’d consider them. Though I specialise in high end HMOs and I know my other professional tenants living in those properties would not thank me for it.


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