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Campaigners win ‘historic’ victory over a letting agency's refusal to let to tenants on housing benefit

CAMPAIGNERS won a historic court victory yesterday against a lettings agency which refused to rent to a disabled single mother because she was on housing benefit.

It means that blanket bans on renting properties to people on housing benefit have now been deemed unlawful and discriminatory.

Housing charity Shelter took the woman’s case to York County Court with the support of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

District Judge Victoria Mark ruled that the prospective tenant had been indirectly discriminated against due to her sex and disability.

The court heard that the single mother of two, who has been given the pseudonym Jane, enquired about renting a two-bedroom property in York, but was told her application would not be considered as she was in receipt of housing benefit.

Judge Mark said: “The defendant’s former policy of rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability.”

Shelter said the ruling was “a huge breakthrough” for its End DSS Discrimination campaign and sent a “clear warning” to landlords.

No DSS is a term used by landlords to deter those who intend to pay their rent using benefits.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “This momentous ruling should be the nail in the coffin for No DSS discrimination.

“It will help give security and stability to people who unfairly struggle to find a place to live just because they receive housing benefit.

“Shelter’s No DSS campaign has had a tough fight for people’s right to a safe home.”

Solicitor Rose Arnall, who led the case, said: “This sends a huge signal to letting agents and landlords that they must end these practices and do so immediately.”

Over 60 per cent of private landlords say they do not let, or prefer not to let, to people who receive housing benefit, according to Shelter.

Disabled People Against Cuts spokeswoman Linda Burnip told the Morning Star: “This is a major victory for all people looking to rent homes and who, for whatever reason, are in receipt of social security payments.

“For disabled people who are more likely to need social security support, either through being unable to work or only able to work part time, it is of particular importance. No DSS must be consigned to the scrap heap.”

MP Luke Hall, the minister for rough Sleeping and housing, said: “Everyone should have the same opportunity when looking for a home and discriminating against someone simply because they receive benefits has no place in a modern housing market.

“That’s why we have been working with landlords and letting agents to help ensure prospective tenants are treated on an individual basis and that benefits are not seen as a barrier to giving someone a place to live.”

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