A court ruling this morning has banned landlords and lettings agents from barring tenants purely for receiving social security.
The action was taken after a parent was evicted through no fault of their own. In England tenants can be evicted at short notice at any time creating disruption to children’s education, work and family life.
The tenant in this case sought another home after eviction and had excellent references from two landlords covering the prior nine years. They had a guarantor and stated they could pay six months rent in advance. The answer was no and they became homeless – placing large cost onto taxpayers.
It’s been common to see “no DSS” even in the recent past, despite the DSS not actually existing for many years.
I always found it slightly curious. Did they mean no benefits at all, in which case that would exclude just about every family in the country given child benefit is almost universal? Or those with a state pension?
What they really mean is no housing benefit claimants – but even then with private rents so high now in parts of the country that term includes many people in key worker roles and on relatively “ok” wages.
The “no DSS” label was a bit of a blanket ban without much nuance and didn’t take into account previous records on income and behaviour, which brings us to the next issue; Private tenant referencing.
This seems to have become more strenuous in recent years and could mean today’s ruling has little effect in practice. Referencing has seen more hurdles added in the recent past and it will be easy for agents and landlords to still bar potential tenants based on financial records submitted for referencing.
In the past it was easier to get a mortgage in this country using self-certification than being a private renter.
I’ve had legitimate income from work excluded by referencing companies and had to fight for some time to show proof it actually was paid work. If you freelance or have anything that isn’t a standard 9-5 it’s really quite difficult. It’s banging your head against an inflexible wall. “Computer says no” and that’s without benefit claims. Goodness knows how a potential tenant will get anywhere if referencing shows benefit claims regardless of prior history of making rent payments. Of course they shouldn’t bar tenants because of it but in reality what will happen?
Given experience I’m dubious it will make much difference. We’ll see. What is really needed in the country is a large number of truly affordable homes with secure, long term tenancies. It’s better for tenants, better for families and better for taxpayers. Continual governments prevent it happening. A minority do very well out of it – while taxpayers pay £25 billion a year to prop it up leaving many people at risk of homelessness.