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THOUSANDS of rental properties in England could be being advertised unlawfully by explicitly discriminating against those on housing benefit, a study found yesterday.
Analysis of around 86,000 letting agent adverts on property website Zoopla by the National Housing Federation and Shelter charity found that 8,710 stipulate “no DSS” – short for Department of Social Security, a ministry which no longer exists but is used as a shorthand for people receiving benefits – or “no housing benefit.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission said any letting agent or landlord using such language could be breaking the law.
Due to a shortage of social housing and high house prices, 1.4 million people in England are forced to rent privately and depend on housing benefit, the study finds.
Women and people with disabilities are disproportionately affected.
Zoopla is not to be the only platform to carry “no DSS” postings – previous research has found that they are numerous across all major property websites.
The National Housing Federation and Shelter urged letting agents, landlords and property platforms to end the “likely unlawful” practice.
National Housing Federation chief executive Kate Henderson said: “This research shows that blatant discrimination against people on housing benefit is widespread. Landlords and letting agents are pushing people towards homelessness and could be breaking equality law.
“Many housing associations were created in the ’50s and ’60s in reaction to discrimination and racism from private landlords who wouldn’t house migrants and said: ‘No Irish, No blacks, No dogs.’
“Today’s discrimination is hardly any different and we refuse to turn a blind eye.”
Shelter head Polly Neate added: “Families are finding themselves barred from renting homes time and time again, simply because they need a housing benefit top-up. At a time when colossal private rents are out of reach for so many, that seems absurd.
“Not only is ‘no DSS’ grossly unfair, it is likely to be unlawful because it overwhelmingly affects women and disabled people.”
The study coincides with an investigation by The Times revealing that rogue landlords are exploiting housing benefit cuts by pushing up rents.
Housing benefit does not cover rents in 95 per cent of Britain, leading to a boom in temporary housing, the report said.
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