Tenants taking to social media to pressure agents into paying out in ‘No DSS cases’

Insurers are reporting a huge rise in prospective tenants trying to win ‘compensation’ from letting agents.

In particular, they are reporting that tenants are increasingly using social media to try and shame letting agents into paying out for alleged ‘No DSS’ discrimination.

They say that they are seeing an increase in notifications being made by agents under their professional indemnity insurance, when the agents have had claims brought against them. As a result, premiums look set to rocket.

Typically, it is prospective renters who are making the complaints and seeking compensation, claiming that their benefit claimant status has prevented them from being allowed to rent a home.

Many of the cases, we have been been told, are aided by Shelter, and usually involve potential tenants who are perceived as vulnerable – for example they are single mothers or disabled.

One insurance expert told us: “We have also had some isolated cases where many agents have been targeted in local areas claiming disability discrimination and using social media to blackmail agents in trying to agree pay-outs.”

According to one insurer, DSS claims are now on their radar, with a 100% increase in claims of this nature compared with 12 months ago.

Insurers generally believe that this is a growth area, especially given the publicity.

As EYE has reported, two prospective tenants recently won out-of-court settlements against agents, in cases backed by Shelter.

Both the tenants were women who claimed indirect discrimination after allegedly being barred from renting due to their benefits status.

While PI cannot cover agents for fines levied against them, they may consider claims where the agents are being asked to compensate for rejected tenants’ emotional stress and inconvenience.

Oliver Wharmby, of Lonsdale Insurance Brokers, is also warning of a rise in PI premiums.

He said: “Rates are hardening and insurers are looking for premium increases.

“The introduction of new legislation and the prospect of regulation will only serve to further protect the consumer – also influencing premium increases.”

Wharmby said that insurers would try to defend themselves and agents against claims wherever possible, rather than simply cave in.

But he warned: “The importance of keeping up-to-date and accurate records to help defend a claim is paramount.

“If insurers cannot mount a robust defence with good written evidence, this may result in a pay-out regardless of whether the agent is at fault.”

He said that evidence to help defend a claim, particularly a spurious one, should include record keeping and written notes about telephone conversations.

He added that insurers are currently of the view that it should never be the agent’s sole decision to turn away DSS applicants.

However, the agent would need clearly documented evidence on their files that individual landlords would not accept such tenants.

The agent might also need to cover themselves by asking the landlord if they would be willing to consider DSS tenants if other checks were taken.

If the landlord still refuses, then insurers might take the view that the agent had a valid defence because their hands were tied.

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36 Comments

  1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

    Brilliant! I’ll be writing to the Ferrari dealership I visited last year, in an attempt to claim compensation for the fact that they wouldn’t sell me a car (on the basis that I didn’t have enough money to pay it)…
     
    I’ll be taking to social media to shame the brand!!
     
     
    This is flagrant discrimination on the grounds of economic circumstances… absolutely outrageous!

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    1. thepiper777

      It is attitudes like this that cause the problem. It is not discrimination to refuse a tenant’s application on the basis that they can’t demonstrate sufficient income to cover the rent. It is discriminatory to refuse applicants in receipt of benefits that they could afford.

      The argument above was used not so long ago to discriminate against ethnic minorities etc.

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      1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

        No, it isn’t.
        What causes the”problem” is the incorrect/illogical idea that the PRS should be vilified for the State’s inability to provide housing for those whom seek support from the State.
        The private sector is just that… Private. The State sector is separate.
        Please be good enough to explain why you believe that dubious organisations such as Shelter, direct their misinformation against Agents and Landlords, and not (for example) those who actually responsible for the shortage of housing ? The Government and local councils are directly responsible for the provision of housing to those dependent on the State. 
        I see nothing of “campaigning” by Shelter that actually tackles the real culprits of any perceived housing shortage…
         
         

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      2. Deltic2130

        Piper.
        When have you ever heard of benefits comfortably covering a private rent, plus bills? We are always told in the media that in-work benefits are useless and always pushing people into arrears. So which is it? Should we all be happily taking benefit tenants in the full and certain knowledge they can pay (their benefits never get stopped for council admin errors, after all), or should we believe The Guardian et al about how inadequate benefits are? I know which one I’ll choose!!

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        1. PossessionFriendUK39

          Shelter’s  own figures put 95%  of the rental market across the country as above the level of Benefit  (  probably something to do with the 4 year Govt  freeze on Benefits  ?  )

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      3. Woodentop

        Rubbish. Benefits do not cover a tenants expenses to rent. Next you will telling us that “Subject to Status” has to be outlawed. Try telling that to the financial services sector.

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      4. SoggyBottom

        For what it’s worth I agree with you.

         

        The statement should read: No ‘People-wot-can’t-afford-it’.

         

        If the rent was particularly low, maybe someone on some form of support could afford it.  It is also the case this will happen less often than in the norm.  By simply stating ‘no DSS’ it’s a refusal to do basic dilligence on a prospective tenant to see if they could afford it.  I think the argument put forward by people advocating a ‘no DSS’ advert is more ‘I can’t afford / be bothered [delete as appropriate] to check applicants’ personal financial situation so I will promote a blanket policy’

         

        Also agree with your sentiment on minorities.  One could extend to young people who statistically-speaking earn less – and enact an ‘over-30’s only’ policy.  There will always be exceptions, and it’s discriminatory to tar every individual with the (general) characteristics of a group, DSS, young, minority or otherwise…

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    2. PossessionFriendUK39

      I think its a clear cut case against Ferrari for discriminating against the unemployed.  !!!

      How mad is this going to get before someone ‘ wakes up ‘

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      1. thepiper777

        The argument here is that;

        1. Tenants in receipt of housing benefit can’t afford the rent.

        2. Landlords are not responsible for housing people in receipt of benefits.

        The first argument is just ridiculous – if a tenant can’t afford the rent then a landlord/agent can reject their application. What a landlord/agent should not do is to refuse to allow a given group (whether it be ethnic minorities, people in receipt of benefits or any other group) the opportunity to show that they can afford it. Housing benefit is a complex system which is given to all sorts of people, some can afford to top up from the basic level, some can’t.

        The second argument is frankly vile. If you choose to become a landlord (and that includes inheriting a property and choosing to rent it) then you have a responsibility to offer your services indiscriminately. It is not up to individual landlord to decide that people in receipt of housing benefit are not good enough to rent in the PRS!

        The moronic suggestion which is proving so popular that it is equivalent to Ferrari discriminating against the poor is just further evidence of how ridiculous the argument is. Landlords can refuse applications if the tenants cannot afford the rent. The argument makes no sense and is just an attempt to justify what is disgusting discriminatory behaviour.

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        1. Will2

          Thepiper777 I think you will find that if you make a significant investment you should be entitled to let who you permit to use it.  Landlords are not charities and risk assess those they choose to rent to. It is moronic to rent a property to a man of straw or someone who is an unacceptable risk or has no realisable assets in case of breach of contract. Social housing has different rules and less controls by legislation so their is a difference.  Making risk assessments is essential.  I can not charge referencing fees so initial risk assessment is less accurate and by some will be regarded as discrimination. This is what shelter pushed for.  Who the hell is going to invest in anything where they have no control over their investment? Sorry I live in the real world not a la la land utopia. 

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        2. Eyereaderturnedposter12

          Piper…it is common knowledge that UC/HB does not provide (in the vast majority of areas) sufficient means to afford rent in line with requirements.

          Yes, my example was deliberately “moronic” to illustrate the “moronic” requirement to essentially ‘hide’ the fact publicly that a Landlord may be unable/not wish to accept HB/UC applicants. This benefits no one. Unless you have reason to believe that it does(?).

          Perhaps your comment about discriminating against the poor, could be viewed as equally “moronic” as the ability to afford goods or services is contingent upon your your having sufficient monies to pay for the same(?)aforementioned goods or services. I assume you have an equal amount of vitriol towards supermarkets, banks, petrol stations, clothes shops, cafes, insurance companies , travel agents, toy shops etc. etc. (I.e. any provider of goods or services) as they ALL discriminate on the basis of affordability and risk?

          Or is it that you’re simply jumping on the latest Landlord/Agent bashing “bandwagon”?

           

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        3. Woodentop

          Ah the words of a leftist? PRS is not for social housing. It is down to the individual landlord to decide and those that do, accept benefit tenants.
           
          Your point is that not qualifying the tenant before rejecting is wrong. Please confirm where in law it says you must? Then take a long hard look at most adverts of the TV … “subject to status” … “terms and conditions apply”. If they do not meet those requirements (requirements as the risk takers thinks suits them) they will be rejected. “No DSS” is highlighting the type of tenant that some landlords wish to save wasting everyones time and are entitled to reject as there income is not guaranteed and WILL NEVER EVER COVER ALL RENTAL EXPENSES LIABLE TO A TENANT.
           
          All I am hearing is looney left political correctness, that will not get a tenant into that landlords property.

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        4. singlelayer

          “What a landlord/agent should not do is to refuse to allow a given group (whether it be ethnic minorities, people in receipt of benefits or any other group) the opportunity to show that they can afford it.”
           
          Actually, they can. And for a very logical reason (emotion/perceived fairness aside) because benefit claimants are not a protected group.
           
          Maybe it’s not fair, moral, just, whatever but until claimants are a protected group then this can indeed go on…which is why Shelter haven’t been able to, nor will they be able to win an actual Court case. That’s made them annoyed as per their view of what the world should look like and are using their current tactics to achieve a similar aim.
           
          Quite separately and more pedantically (but it seems absolute exacting detail matters to you), the Department for Social Security (DSS) no longer exists, so the term ‘No DSS’, despite being widely understood, is effectively meaningless. Stop forcing an argument that’s not there.

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  2. smile please

    Shelter are actively seeking agents out and trying to get them to say no DSS etc.

    They are then using this to extort money from agents.

    Giving the poor agent the choice of settling for a few thousand pounds or threatening to take it to court with the prospect of paying tens of thousands in legal fees.

    Shelter are a disgrace.

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    1. thepiper777

      Simple solution – don’t discriminate

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      1. smile please

        It’s not discrimination, it’s a case of insurances increasing or the inability of obtaining rent or legal cover for a demographic who weather you like it or not are more likely to default.
        Shelter have done a deal with the government, which is they will not shame and harass them in regards to social housing as long as they can pursue their witch hunt against agents seen as a soft touch.
        Shelter are a money making pressure group.
        If they cared about tenants they would be seeking social housing and bringing slum landlords to book.

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        1. thepiper777

          It is equally wrong for insurance companies to increase premiums when tenants are in receipt of benefits. This is also being contested, just as the mortgage lenders have had to remove clauses that landlrods may not rent to people in receipt of benefits.
          Shelter are a charity. Claiming otherwise just reduces the credibility of your argument. Like them or not to lie to strengthen your argument just shows your argument is weak. 
          Whether tenants from specific backgrounds or groups are more likely to default is an issue which should be addressed at the level of the cause. If research revelas that a certain ethnic group are more likely to default on rent we’d ask why and try to address the problem. We wouldn’t say “well they shouldn’t have housing then” – actually judging by some of the posts on here some of you might! 
          If tenants in receipt of benefits are more likely to default campaign for the government to offer benefits that meet the PRS rent, campaign for assistance to be given to vulnerable tenants who may be better off having the rent paid directly to the landlord but don’t say that a certain group of people don’t deserve to be adequately housed. 
          The group of people you are discriminating aginst includes expectant mothers whose relationships have broken down who rely on housing benefit for a period whilst they can’t work. It includes people who are sick or have been injured and can’t work and people who do work but are unable to find jobs that cover the basic needs of their family. Blanket discrimination is just vile and you should really reconsider your views and show a little compassion. 
          And before someone says I should rent to people in receipt of benefits, I have, both my own properties and properties I used to manage when I owned a letting agency. 

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          1. Will2

            I think you will find insurance companies set their premiums based on risk. If a claim is made against a person on benefits they will be less likely to be able to recover anything. Ie there will be no ability to apply to the courts for attachment to earnings.  They are unlikely to have assets of value to seize. This means the risk increases as do premiums or alternatively they become uninsurable. Unlike shelter who spend supporters money insurers have to make their books balance.

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            1. thepiper777

              Yes Will, thats right, they do. And whether they’re allowed to discriminate in this way is being questioned with many insurance companies adopting their criteria. I very much doubt insurance companies will continue to charge a premium for tenants in receipt of benefits for long – what will your excuse for supporting discriminatory practices be then?
               
              As I’ve said, the problem is systemic. If tenants in receipt of housing benefit are more likely to default lets campaign to change that. Not to try to leave a whole section of society without adequate housing. The answers to the problem are not blanket bans on particular subsections of society. The solutions are increased and improved housing provisions, increased housing benefit to be in line with PRS rents and possibly rent being paid directly to the landlord or agent. 

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              1. Will2

                I do not wish to use my time to campaign to change benefits systems that are wrong.  I know how rubbish the dwp are I have a disabled son and have taken every dwp decision to tribunal for his correct benefits. Probably approaching 10 times.  Even today the BBC have reported the dwp discriminate 4 times more than private business against disabled people.  I make an investment for a reliable return so I leave you to campaign. Would I commercially rent to my son when his benefit have stopped/reduced for six months NO.  Use your efforts to fight the problem as to why some people can’t easily rent and not those risking their investment, their pensions etc.  Look at the bigger picture to see why some people are not accepted for maybe the same reason a 17 year old would not be able to insure a Bugatti Veyron the risks do not stand up.  I use this as you seem to like car analogies.

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        2. KC54

          We do not discriminate.  All our applicants have to prove that their net household income is double the rent payable.  That is called a level playing field and if the LHA rates do not allow for that criteria to be met then the application goes no further.

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  3. frostieclaret87

    Shelter is a left wing socialist pressure group masquerading as a charity for the homeless whilst it has no shelters, no property to rent and accommodates not one destitute person.

    Biggest con job to get government funding going….

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  4. Eric Walker

    CPRs are clear – you must inform the tenant of any restrictions before they make a transactional decision. You can’t place a landlord in breach of their contractual obligations.

    Shelter has clarified their position in their blog – “We aren’t telling landlords or agents that they have to rent to anyone – we’re simply saying that they must treat all prospective tenants on a case-by-case basis as individuals, & without prejudice.” Fair enough.

    TPOS has said that in the event such restrictions apply, an agent must be able to evidence this. They fell short of saying that an agent should or is allowed to inform a tenant in advance of a viewing. Clarity would be helpful.

    The fact remains, as most tenants on benefit will find passing referencing a challenge without a guarantor together with an apparent shortage of properties, a lot of people’s hope will be dashed and their time wasted

    I suspect if there is a genuine restriction that provided you can evidence this, you will be fine. If you operate a blanket ban you may not.

     

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  5. PossessionFriendUK39

    As if it should ‘ have to be said, ‘    affordability criteria ( obviously ) applies,  adding that the Housing Benefit in that area does not equate to market rent [  blame the government,  and All the Tenant support groups that have lobbied for measures that have resulted in increased Rent !  ]

    As Shelter say,   Benefit doesn’t cover rent in 95% of the country.

    Surely this is all that has to be advertised   ?  !

    If a prospective tenant on benefit enquirers, – they can be directed to that criteria

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  6. jeremy1960

    Is it just me or are there others out there just waiting for someone to dig up some dirt on shelter so that all their gov handouts stop and the public see them for what they really are?

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    1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

      They work hand in hand with the Govt. as their housing propaganda ‘arm’…they’ll continue to be funded, and handsomely …until our ilk disappear! Happy Monday!

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  7. Will2

    The insurance expert referred to to in the article got it right that Shelter are resorting to BLACKMAIL.  It is low life’s that resort to blackmail. the problem being the agency professional bodies and landlord organisations need to fight a legal case on this. Landlords are leaving the market as this rubbish which abolition of s21 will reinforce is making renting out residential property toxic and is quickly heading to a greater problem similar to the 1977 Rent Act.  History is repeating itself in a slightly different guise. Government won’t help as business does not have a vote to sell. 

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  8. Stuart

    Sadly many and likely very many so called DSS applicants have “chosen” this as a lifestyle instead of using the social as a safety net between jobs for example. This rapidly becomes a downward spiral where it’s a soft option to simply not go back to work and have your rent, council tax and what have you paid for, we often field calls from younger enquirers who you just know have set out on this path. Unfortunately this is the mindset of many of todays generation… the expectation of a supported lifestyle with no payback from the recipient and yes of course there are many genuine cases out there. No doubt I’ll come in for some flack on this piece so I’d like to add at this point that I left school really not that long ago with no qualifications as I wasn’t particularly bright, what I do have is a strong work ethic and had solid guidance from equally hardworking parents whe went through their whole lives with very little money but always worked hard…leaning on the gov’t was never an option.

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    1. thepiper777

      Stuart very few people would choose the lifestyle you’re describing. What you’re referring to is a minimal number of people who are over represented in the media. The problem isn’t that people are choosing the lifestyle you describe the problem is that significant sections of our society are being let down. The problem is systemic. Why do you think so few people from affluent backgrounds ‘choose’ a work free life on benefits?

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      1. Will2

        Perhaps because if they are affluent they would not qualify.  There was a stage where young single girls were getting pregnant purely to get housing and on benefits or perhaps you do not remember that?  You may find it strange I support the premise of a benefits system and a social conscience.  I believe in social housing to help poorer in society paid for from the taxes we pay by the many who benefit from being more fortunate. I do not believe landlords who are taxed heavily should then be forced to house those they might not wish to. I do not stand in judgement because they choose to risk assess their prospective tenants and do not wish to comply with bully boy loud mouthed charities who target and pick off agents with money that could be spent on housing those less fortunate rather than making political gain. I do not support politically motivated charities out to further themselves on other peoples money, I do not believe in bullying and blackmail.  I do not believe in governments giving discounts on the sale of social housing i.e spending tax payers money to buy votes.  I praise real charities where they are not paying CEO’s  massive salaries for attacking and blackmailing people -such people should be charged with fraud.

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  9. Itsallajoke

    I like to give everyone the benefit of doubt but its a sad fact:-The most damage that have been done to my properties over the years have been with DSS  tenants/ dogs/  animals /  flea infestations from cats / drugs / general no money to care about the property. One even tried to light an open fire with a can of petrol, that didn,t work out well. The problem here is landlords have had their fingers burned so many times  with DSS tenants- they have no money to pay for damage / can walk away scott free / leaving the landlord many thousands of pounds out of pocket. Im not here to provide social housing / kennels for animals / drug dens. This latest thing targeting agents for compensation will result in even more agents / private landlords withdrawing from the sector.The government better start handing out tents-because of  latest legislation is going to make it 10 times worse. Can they can’t pay 6 months rent in advance, will give a good idea who to trust your property with.

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  10. IWONDER36

    What everyone seems to forget here is that it is not as clear cut as he/she works, or he/she is on benefits. A good agent has a job to do in respect of all parties. We develop a nose for who we feel would make good or bad tenants, we use our knowledge of not just our industry, but of people to do due diligence, so that we can spare the landlord potential lost revenue, property damage, constant rent arrears, etc….

    We also have a duty of care to other local residents regarding anti-social behavior, so it is imperative that we are allowed to do our job in choosing the right tenant, not just any tenant that can afford to live in the property.

    Some letting agents specialize in benefit funded tenancies, others in high-end properties with high rents, most of us work somewhere in the middle ground where we deal with all kinds of people from all ethnicity’s from all over the world, funded by a variety of income streams, including benefits. But we must be able to say NO to people without the “No DSS” card being played every time.

    Only this morning we have had an inquiry from someone wanting to view a top floor apartment in a private development of mainly owner occupied dwellings who wanted to use it as a church. The point being that no two days are the same, neither are two inquiries, all are taken on merit. We will not be allowing this viewing to take place, and not because we are islamaphobic, christianophobic, or any other made up phobic which people choose to use to get their own way.

    By forcing agents to carry out viewings with someone they know the landlord won’t accept, you raise the viewers hopes, waste both your time, and more importantly you cost them travelling expenses that they likely can’t afford to waste.

    Stop politicizing everything, it is going to make things far worse for tenants and landlords.

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  11. Woodentop

    Simple answer …. tenants must declare full status before making a viewing including income and expenditure. This is in the best interest of the tenant from wasting their time failing referencing and hoping to enter into a tenancy they cannot afford. The onus is on the tenant to prove guaranteed income, not the agent to obtain.

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    1. JamesDB

      ABSOLUTELY!  If tenants give all information up front, and if agents ask for it, surely then agents would know before even leaving their desk whether the proposed tenant had an income high enough to get the property?

       

      Maybe this is a big city thing, where I work, which is a small seaside town, we don’t really have a problem with it.

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  12. Sunbeam175

    Shelter have largely caused this issue. Landlords are leaving the sector and therefore there are less rental homes available. We put a property up to let and often have 5 or 6 tenants wanting to take it. We are being offered 6 months rent up from from tenant a and tenant b wants to pay 4 weeks in arrears. We ring the landlord and ask which tenant they want and guess what they want tenant a! Where’s the discrimination there?

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  13. Fred Jones

    It could be easy to take benefit tenants if only the benefit office would issue direct payment and cover every day that the tenant has possession of the keys and not making payments late, then landlords could keep up with their mortgage payments.

    tenants could also pay either a deposit or for an insurance policy.

    I would still have the pass a reference check first.

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