At least 1 in 7 rental properties online are likely to be advertised unlawfully by explicitly discriminating against people who rely on housing benefit, new research from the National Housing Federation and Shelter shows.
The analysis of more than 7,000 adverts in the area shows that 978 adverts for different residential properties in Yorkshire and the Humber say ‘no DSS’ or ‘no housing benefit’.
A shortage of social housing and high house prices have led to rapidly growing numbers of people having to rent privately and depend on housing benefit. There are now more than 112,000 people in this situation in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Women and people with disabilities are disproportionately in this situation and therefore affected by discrimination. Indirectly discriminating against woman and people with disabilities, by banning people on housing benefit, is likely to violate the 2010 Equality Act.
Zoopla are not the only online property platform to facilitate this potentially unlawful practice. Previous research has found numerous discriminatory adverts across all major property platforms including RightMove, SpareRoom.com and OpenRent.
Worryingly, these explicitly discriminatory adverts are only the tip of the iceberg. Many other adverts imply that DSS is not accepted by saying ‘professionals only’. Previous research from Shelter and the National Housing Federation revealed how many housing benefit tenants are rejected by letting agents over the phone, regardless of whether they can afford the rent or not.
The National Housing Federation and Shelter have joined forces to urge letting agents and landlords to end this likely unlawful practice. They are also calling on online property websites to stop facilitating this grossly unfair discrimination.
Jo Allen, External Affairs Manager for Yorkshire and the Humber at the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations in England, social landlords to around 6 million people, said: “This research shows that blatant discrimination against people on housing benefit is widespread. Landlords and letting agents are pushing people towards homelessness and could be breaking equality law. It is beyond me why companies like Zoopla and SpareRoom.com are letting these adverts on their websites. They’re sending the message that they’re ok discriminating against someone, simply because they’re on benefits. This has to change.
“Many housing associations were created in the 50s and 60s in reaction to discrimination and racism from private landlords who wouldn’t house migrants, and said “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.” Today’s discrimination is hardly any different and we refuse to turn a blind eye.”
Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter said: “It’s staggering to see this discrimination laid out in black and white - and brazenly enforced by letting agents, landlords and online property websites. ‘No DSS’ is outdated, offensive and causing misery for thousands.
“Families are finding themselves barred from renting homes time and time again, simply because they need a Housing Benefit top up. At a time when colossal private rents are out of reach for so many, that seems absurd.
“Not only is ‘No DSS’ grossly unfair, it is likely to be unlawful because it overwhelming affects women and disabled people. That’s why we need the lettings industry to stop blaming each other, accept its role in this shocking practice and clean up its act.”