The decision handed down at York County Court found that banning tenants who are reliant on welfare payments from renting properties is in breach of the Equality Act.
The news is a victory for housing charity Shelter which has been campaigning against the use of so-called “no DSS” clauses by landlords and lettings agents.
District Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark said:
“Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability, contrary to […] the Equality Act 2010.”
The virtual hearing took place on Wednesday July 1.
Shelter’s strategic litigation team brought the case against a letting agent that refused to rent any properties to a single mother-of-two, because she was in receipt of housing benefit.
The charity says that 63 per cent of private landlords say they do not let, or prefer not to let, to people who receive housing benefit.
The tenant, Jane (not her real name) says: “I was shocked and found it very unfair that they wouldn’t even give me a chance.
“I had excellent references from both my landlords of the last nine years as I’ve always paid my rent on time and I had a professional guarantor.
“I could pay up to six months’ rent in advance if they wanted it because my parents lent me the amount, which I then paid back to them monthly. “But when the letting agent wouldn’t take me because of a company policy, I felt very offended that after all those years, when I have prided myself on paying my rent, paying my bills, being a good tenant, it just meant nothing.
“When I realised we were going to be homeless because I couldn’t find anywhere, I felt sick to my stomach.”
The Shelter solicitor who led the case, Rose Arnall says: “This is the first time a court has fully considered a case like this.
“It finally clarifies that discriminating against people in need of housing benefit is not just morally wrong, it is against the law.
“Shelter has been fighting ‘No DSS’ for nearly two years, and this win in the courts is what’s needed to end these discriminatory practices for good.
“This sends a huge signal to letting agents and landlords that they must end these practices and do so immediately.”
National Residential Landlords Association policy director Chris Norris says: “No landlord should discriminate against tenants because they are in receipt of benefits.
“Every tenant’s circumstance is different and so they should be treated on a case by case basis based on their ability to sustain a tenancy.