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Why saying "no DSS" can give rise to discrimination

View profile for Rebecca Topping
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Why saying "no DSS" can give rise to discrimination

A recent investigation carried out by the BBC has revealed that thousands of landlords across the country may be rejecting prospective tenants, because they rely upon housing benefit to either wholly or partly cover their rent.

The investigation showed that the landlords surveyed preferred to let their properties to families with pets than those in receipt of welfare benefits. This has led to what is reported to be a “no go zone” for those who receive lower incomes.

A survey conducted by housing charity Shelter, found that out of 1,137 private landlords, 43% imposed an outright ban of letting to those who relied upon welfare benefits. A further 18% of landlords preferred not to let to them at all.

According to official figures, more single women are likely to be claiming housing benefit than single men, which means that women are more likely to be treated unfavourably, or less favourably, than men, as a result of their sex.

An individual can be discriminated against if they can show that they have suffered unfavourable or less favourable treatment, and have been put to a detriment, as a result of a protected characteristic. The protected characteristics, as defined by the Equality Act 2010 include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Gender reassignment
  • Religious beliefs
  • Disability

Indirect discrimination occurs when there is equal treatment of a particular group but the effect of a provision, criterion or practice imposed by an organisation, has had a disproportionate, adverse impact upon the group. As such, landlords could be perceived to be indirectly discriminating against women by applying the provision, criterion, or practice of saying “no to DSS” because official figures show that women are more likely to be claiming housing benefit than single men.

It is evident that there is a clear lack of social housing available across the country, however landlords should arguably be looking to work with housing associations and local councils in order to find a solution rather than seclude those in need.

If you feel that you have been positively discriminated against as a result of a protected characteristic, you may be able to bring a claim for discrimination under the terms of the Equality Act 2010. Please contact our specialist discrimination team for further advice on 01616 966 229.