Housing charity and pressure groups have started a campaign to end what they call “DSS Discrimination” in the private rented sector.
Ending DSS Discrimination
They say private landlords and letting agents should not be allowed to state in adverts that they do not wish to take people who are dependent on housing benefits to pay the rent.
[Note: DSS is short for the benefits administering body, “The Department for Social Security”, which was renamed many years ago to “The Department for Work and Pensions” or DWP].
Many landlords and their letting agents have been saying No DSS for a long while – but increasingly so since the government capped the level of total benefit people could claim and also since they decoupled housing benefit from median market rents. Landlords also say the constant messing about with how housing benefits are administered – especially whether or not it could be paid direct to the landlord – is a problem. (Landlords preferred the old days when it could nearly always be paid direct to them, thus reducing the chance of some tenants spending the benefit on something other than rent).
And more recently, delays and problems with payments under the new Universal Credit payment system, have scared off yet more private landlords.
Some private landlords say they at the mercy of their mortgage companies. They may have a point here because some mortgage lenders’ buy to let loans still have terms and conditions that expressly disallow lets to people on housing benefit. This is still the case with, for example, “Accord”, which is the buy to let arm of the UK’s second largest building society, the Yorkshire. Landlords with loans with such mortgage lenders effectively have their hands tied. If they accept housing benefit tenants, they are breaking the terms of their mortgage loans. Also, some insurance companies either refuse cover or demand higher premiums or excesses or both.
In some cases, help can be made available to benefit tenants from local government and charities for tenancy deposits (using bonds) and also through “rent in advance” assistance schemes. But landlords often complain that schemes like these are not available their area and that in practice, the schemes are often very hard to claim against, with payments-out from bond schemes being slow and the processes, cumbersome.
In some areas today, especially outside London and for the right types of property in less expensive areas, the housing benefit levels means that letting to benefit tenants can still be made to work. But these areas have got fewer.
Our view is that putting “No DSS” on adverts does not seem right to me. Such blanket bans are not right and should be stopped.
Will Discrimination Against DSS Really End?
But stopping landlords putting “No DSS” on adverts will not somehow magically make the tenants able to find and prove they have enough income or other resources sufficient to pay the market rents. They either have it or they don’t!
But are private landlords unique is not being over-keen on housing benefit dependent tenants? Maybe not.
It seems that effectively saying “no” to housing benefit is also rife in social housing. But in social housing, the providers of housing never say “No DSS” – referring to “affordability checks” instead. But the income checks employed by social housing providers are often even more demanding than private landlords use. Most private landlords want to see income to be 2.3 times or 2.5 times the rent. With some social landlords, the level is set at 3 times the rent.
And the effect of this is, of course, the same, meaning many folks dependent on housing benefit often find they are shut out of social housing too. There is more on this hypocrisy here at this excellent Joe Halewood blog: https://speyejoe2.wordpress.com/2018/08/23/dear-polly/
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