One in 10 rentals in England being advertised unlawfully

Research by the National Housing Federation and Shelter shows at least one in 10 rental properties in England is being advertised unlawfully by discriminating against people who rely on housing benefit to pay their rent.

Analysis of around 86,000 letting adverts on Zoopla revealed that 8,710 property adverts contained the words ‘no DSS’ or ‘no housing benefit’. Others used phrases like ‘professionals only’, demonstrating a similar sentiment.

NHF chief executive Kate Henderson has condemned the practice, saying the discrimination on display in the adverts is blatant and unacceptable, but was becoming increasingly widespread.

She said: “It is beyond me why property websites are permitting these adverts. 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 1950s and 60s in reaction to discrimination and racism from private landlords who wouldn’t house migrants. Today’s discrimination is hardly any different, and we refuse to turn a blind eye to it.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said the survey showed that the discrimination against tenants on benefits was being brazenly enforced by letting agents, landlords and online property websites.

“Statements like ‘No DSS’ are outdated, offensive and causing misery for thousands.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,” she said.

“We need the lettings industry to stop blaming each other, accept its role in this shocking practice and clean up its act.”

The current housing crisis, characterised by a shortage of social housing and high house prices has led to increasing numbers of people having to rent privately. High rents and stagnant wages has meant many tenants depend on housing benefit to pay their rent, whether they are in work or not.

Indirectly discriminating against woman and people with disabilities, by banning people on housing benefit, is likely to violate the 2010 Equality Act.

Analysis from the two housing organisations revealed the discrimination is more prevalent in coastal and rural areas.

By Patrick Mooney, editor