Renters win out of court settlements from letting agents in ‘No DSS’ cases backed by Shelter

Two prospective renters have won individual out of court settlements from letting agents in ‘No DSS’ cases.

Amanda Staples and Emma Loffler, both single mothers, claimed indirect discrimination and were backed by Shelter. Neither of the agents has been named.

The latest BBC Radio 4’s Money Box programme has looked at the issue of ‘No DSS’, including these cases.

Staples, 36, was looking for somewhere to rent after her marriage broke down.

She said: “I kept ringing around estate agents and when I said I would be a housing benefit [claimant] it was a blanket ‘no’.”

She offered to pay first six months and then 12 months rent upfront after an offer of a loan from her father, but said that the letting agent insisted that the landlord’s insurance did not cover tenants on benefit.

She said: “After a while, talking to this one particular estate agent, I just said: ‘Nothing I say is going to make any difference is it?’ And he said, ‘No’.”

With Shelter backing her legal action, the letting agent ultimately agreed to write a public letter of apology and to pay £3,000 compensation and the £10,000 legal costs.

In the other case, Loffler was issued with a public letter of apology, paid £3,500 compensation and given £2,500 towards legal costs.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “The message is clear – letting agents and landlords must not treat potential tenants as second-class citizens simply because they rely on benefits.

“If they continue to blindly discriminate against those receiving housing benefit, they risk legal action and a hefty fine.

“Not only is ‘No DSS’ discrimination outdated and grossly unfair, it is unlawful under the Equality Act because it overwhelming impacts women and disabled people, who are more likely to need support paying their rent.”

Neate added that she might not be able to afford to shop in Waitrose, but Waitrose did not put up notices banning her.

In an earlier case in 2018, Shelter backed single mother Rosie Keogh, who successfully argued that blanket bans on ‘DSS’ tenants indirectly discriminated against women and disabled people, because they are most likely to be on benefits.

It was this case that was cited by both Staples and Loffler.

The Money Box programme on ‘No DSS’ also talked to a tenant, Emily, looking for somewhere new to rent who said that one agent refused even to take her details because she was on benefits, despite a 100% rent payment record over nine years.

She said of her current situation: “I just can’t get anywhere.”

The programme, which also looked at lenders’ and insurers’ clauses banning landlords from taking on benefits tenants, can be heard below:

Shelter has also released an open letter to rental firm OpenRent alleging discrimination. The letter claims that most of its properties are not available to tenants on benefits, saying that in London only 11% of its properties are available to tenants on housing benefit and that it is a similar story in Manchester and Newcastle.


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  1. Jrsteeve

    This solves nothing and, if anything, goes further against those on benefits. Agents and landlords need better support from councils and government to deal with those claimants who abuse the system and tarnish them all.

    More support is needed to be able to evict problem tenants more quickly and/or at least the council/government to stand as a guarantor essentially.

    Can I ask when those two will be taking the mortgage lenders to court too? So many restrict letting to benefit claimants, so it isn’t the landord or agent responsible in many cases now.

  2. frostieclaret87

    Typical political posturing again. It’s not about discrimination it’s what most BTL lenders specifically exclude in their terms and conditions.

    Instead of persecuting agents they should be lobbying for an underwriting scheme by local authorities or government.

    i won’t hold my breath…..

  3. David Clark

    Simple question: Why?

    If the rent is £800 then the rent is £800. Why would anyone not want to accept it from person A but be prepared to accept it from person B? Why would someone ‘discriminate’?

    Waitrose doesn’t ban you from their store if you don’t have the money to pay, but if you get to the till with a basket of shopping and can’t / won’t pay then they will take the shopping away and ask you to leave. We’re getting to the point soon where private landlords aren’t allowed to serve an S21 (6b) notice, so they will be stuck with a tenant until an expensive court process removes them – eventually.

    Why is the government seeing fit to turn the private rented sector into an extension of Social Housing? I think I could easily answer that!

    Why are they removing any tax incentives for private landlords at the same time as hog-tying them with legislation changes?

    No agent starts their day on the premise ‘who can I discriminate against today, whose life can I make miserable and who can I get to call on Shelter to rough me up a bit and take my money’. They do start every day trying to protect their client and their property and at the same time protecting themselves from that client suing them for negligence.

    Shelter please stop funding court action and start funding the social housing that is so obviously needed.

    1. SoggyBottom

      “If the rent is £800 then the rent is £800. Why would anyone not want to accept it from person A but be prepared to accept it from person B? Why would someone ‘discriminate’?”
      To simplify; if Person A earned £600 and Person B earned 6,000 then Person B is the better credit risk.  They can suffer a greater reduction in earnings and still be able to afford to pay the rent.
      The mortgage industry was slammed for sub-prime lending; this is designed to ensure a higher quality of lending.  Landlords likewise would be prudent to ensure the highest-earning tenants possible occupy their properties.  In neither case am I advocating a ban on DSS, but they are by definition lower-earning.  There exists already regulatory minimums on BTL Interest Coverage Ratios, perhaps this is better / additionally served with a minumum ‘Total Income : Rent’ ratio of any propspective borrower.  Should a DSS applicant pass the entry requirements then no issue…

      1. David Clark

        Soggy B – That was a rhetorical question ‘Why?’ Your explanation spells it out very clearly!

    2. new life

      lets not forget who is funding shelter the tax payer on the whole ERRRR (thats you and me ) over £15 millionin 2018  they havent housed a single person nor fully understand how this whole process works for hard working agents , but she still sleeps soundly on her big fat salery.

  4. Woodhen

    An example of Insurance restrictions this week with…….guard. Had a tenant on benefits…..with a guarantor and 3 mths rent in advance. Landlord checked insurance which had no DSS clause. To change they insisted we open up a referencing account with them and use their referencing product. We have our own referencing procedures and an account with much lower fees which they would not accept. In addition premium was increased by £150.

    To make matters worse this was the Landlords Contents policy only. The building was covered under a block policy which included DSS!!

  5. Will2

    This sounds like Polly Propoganda to me. “Two prospective renters have won individual out of court settlements from letting agents in ‘No DSS’ cases.” Sounds to me that this is NOT a court decision, but correct me if I am wrong?  An out of court settlement is an agreement to resolve a dispute before the court makes a determination?  How can this be classified as a legal win?  Is it not more about bullying power – ie we have greater funds to fight a legal case than you! If shelter lose its someone elses (donaters funds) money or if the agents loses its their livelihood. Only a court, court of appeal and ultimately the supreme court that can decide these issues. Shelter and the BBC seem to be suggesting this was a decision in law.  To me it sounds like my gun is bigger than yours!  I thought there was still ongoing debate as to whether these cases fell within the Equality Act or not. This would be a legal determination and not a propoganda polly decision. This issue has been driven even further into conflict as Landlords and Agents now have to consider if they want to reference any particular proposective tenant,  as it is at the cost of the landlord. The prospect of that reference being suitable for insurance cover now needs to be considered in the knowledge that late payments or even non payements and risk of claw back due to the well publicised DWP and council incompetence. So is this propoganda as I suspect of has there been some kind of legal determination?. Perhaps we have some eminent lawyers able to express an opinion????

    1. RosBeck73

      Absolutely. The phrasing ‘no DSS’ or even a blanket ban on those on benefits is not illegal Neate is also saying people face hefty ‘fines.’ They don’t. There is no fining system in place for this. The agents have just been picked off and scared into settling before court action. The settling of the cases pre-court action doesn’t change the law at all. I have tweeted to ASA that they should look into this as Shelter is misrepresenting the facts in their ‘advertising’ on Twitter and elsewhere.

      1. Will2

        WELL DONE!!!

      2. debbiedoesalot

        Yes Ros, what we need is a landlord who also happens to be a high flying lawyer who can test this in court. I’m sure we could have a whip around and help fund any costs. This needs to be nipped in the bud now as there can be good reason why some landlords and agents don’t take accept benefit tenants.

        1. Gromit

          Why isn’t the NLA/RLA/ARLA not taking on these cases?

          Ans: they’re toothless paper tigers – a waste of space!

  6. jeremy1960

    We put every case to our landlords. 3 years ago, against our advice, a landlord accepted a tenant claiming benefits because she “felt sorry” for her – 4 kids, separation……

    First year no problem, then 1 kid reached 18 = cut in benefits = rent arrears. Took 5 months to get back on track.

    In August last year, landlord learns that her job at the EU in Brussels is changing and she needs the property back. Notice served end of September to expire in December, giving more than statutory 2 months. Notice expires but Christmas & New Year get in the way when tenant fails to vacate on expiry of notice, local council ask for an extension and advise the tenant not to move out!. First thing in January, complete online form for accelerated possession, landlord needs to sign but is in Brussels, not back for a week. Eventually signed and hand delivered to the courts to start the process. All goes well until the court receive on the last day allowable an appeal carefully scripted, definitely not written by the tenant, all of a sudden 4 children have illnesses and ailments! Case goes ahead we get a possession date by letter but in the same post a letter advising that an appeal will be heard 2 days before possession date.

    This week we get a letter from the court, after the original possession date, tenant failed to attend the appeal hearing but shelter turned up to represent, result is a 42 day deferment.

    So provided the tenant moves out given the 42 days extra it will have taken 6 months for the landlord to legitimately get her own house back! And, tenant has not paid this months rent, now tell me again Polly, why are benefit tenants such a good bet?

    1. RentBoy

      That behaviour is not unique to benefit tenants

  7. Jonti500

    Please can someone explain to me (as an agent with landlords who specifically instruct me not to accept UC/HB tenants) why is it the agent that has been taken to task and not the landlord who is liable?

    also does anyone have the bad debt figure for working tenants against those on benefits? I have my own and can state 100% that tenants on benefits that do not work are at 90% whereas working or on top up are a 3% bad debt ratio!

    1. DASH94

      Difficult to calculate that.  If you receive the benefits directly from the council, the rent account is only up to date once a year (13 payments againt 12 rent demands).  We only get direct council payments if there has been an historical payment problem
      If the tenant recieves the benefits themselves, they just pay the total rent amount on the due date so are up  to date.   We have some tenants whose circumstances have changed since they  moved in and have gone onto income support, but we aren’t made aware of it.

      1. Gromit

        ….and if the tenant has made an incorrect or fraudulent claim then the Local Council can clawback rent paid.

  8. DASH94

    “Neate added that she might not be able to afford to shop in Waitrose, but Waitrose did not put up notices banning her.”

    Bizarre analogy.

    1. Will2

      On her salary she probably shops at Fortum and Mason!!

    2. jeremy1960

      DASH94, if she cannot afford to shop in Waitrose on £200,000 + of taxpayers handouts then there is something seriously wrong!

  9. Jonti500

    Please help me. Why was the landlord/s not responsible but the agent/s were? Does this mean that if a landlord tells the agent no tenants on benefits but the agent has to accept them can the landlord then sue the agent? I assume they can. Is this a can of worms? No pun intended.

    1. jeremy1960

      All prospective tenants should be presented to your landlords, let them make the decision and to confirm yes or no by email. Agents should never accept any tenants without the landlord agreeing.

  10. Sunbeam175

    If a working person doesn’t pay their rent you can pursue it via the courts and get an attachment of earnings if required, benefit tenants are a complete waste of time taking to court, absolutely no point. As a letting agent our job is to find the best, least risk tenant for our clients and this is seldom someone on benefits. With less and less property available (thanks partly to Shelter) there is less and less chance of a letting Agent letting to a DSS tenant.

  11. PeeBee

    Another day… another article where Shelter (a misnomer if there ever was one…) take centre stage for “helping” a family having to face the “no DSS” issue:

    Is the article balanced?  Of course not.  That wouldn’t have the required effect – would it?

    But as for the “help” provided by the “housing charity”…

    …all I can see is a Teeshirt on a publicity photo.

    1. PeeBee

      According to the reply to my query on Twitter as to what “help” Shelter had provided:

      “Hello, after Stephen approached our services, our advice and legal teams worked closely with him to access his family’s rights to housing and social services assistance from their local council. This lead to their move into long term secure accommodation. We continue to work closely with Stephen who is a valued activist in our #EndDSSDiscrimination campaign.”

      Make of that what you wish…


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