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Ban ‘No DSS, no pets, no children’ in letting agent adverts

As part of WHQ’s What I’d Change about Housing and the Law feature, Liz Silversmith calls for action on discrimination in letting ads. 

Everyone who has rented has seen this term casually added to adverts for flats and houses. To find a perfect house in a convenient location, only to be told your children and cats aren’t welcome. And you can definitely take a hike if you’re on housing benefit: 43 per cent of landlords have an outright ban on DSS tenants and a further 18 per cent prefer not to let to them.

Considering the significant number of people dependent on supplementing income with housing benefit, it’s absurd that landlords turn down this reliable income. Any arguments around the ‘damage’ pets or children cause pales in comparison to what a messy cohort of students might do.

This kind of discrimination against families and working-class people would be banned under the Equality Act, but it hasn’t been clear until recently as it doesn’t obviously fall under the protected characteristics: age, disability, gender, sex, race, religion. But a woman recently won a case under the Equality Act, under sex discrimination because blanket bans on benefit claimants disproportionately affect single women (who are more likely to claim). She won £2,000 from the letting agent on the grounds of indirect discrimination.

The Welsh Government can surely make this clearer, perhaps by making it a term of the Rent Smart Wales licence not to discriminate on these grounds. Or just more landlords being taken to court should get the message across…

Liz Silversmith, Let Down in Wales (letdown.wales)

If you would like to contribute to Part 2 of this feature, tell WHQ what you would change about the law in relation to housing and why by emailing the editor, Jules Birch, at [email protected]

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