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People on benefits 'discriminated against by letting agents'

BANNED: Research by housing charity Shelter has found that letting agents across England are refusing to rent properties to people on housing benefit

THE HOUSING charity Shelter has discovered that letting agents are discriminating against tenants on benefits.

Shelter’s undercover investigation into the practices of high street letting companies revealed that a number were banning people on housing benefit from renting the homes on their books.

In the new report published in collaboration with the National Housing Federation, Shelter has disclosed that almost half (48%) of the 149 letting agent branches investigated had no homes available for people in receipt of housing benefit (also referred to as DSS).

The findings were discovered by a team of staff conducting mystery shopping calls to letting agents across England.

The team of “mystery shoppers” posed as both landlords and renters who received housing benefit.

Shelter said one particular letting agent, Ludlow Thompson, stood out because of its responses to prospective tenants and landlords.

According to Shelter, nine out of the 10 branches of this letting agency told callers it was company policy not to let properties to people in receipt of housing benefit.

Contrary to the results of the undercover probe, Ludlow Thompson subsequently informed Shelter that this is not company policy.

The charity has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issue and force action to be taken to tackle to prejudice they say is pushing people closer to homelessness.

In a statement, the charity said: “‘No DSS’ policies and the practice of barring tenants on housing benefit is wreaking havoc on people’s search for a home. It is locking people out of private renting when it is increasingly their only option, and in the worst cases leaving families facing homelessness.

“The widespread prejudice towards housing benefit renters set out in this report is not only morally unjust, it could be unlawful. ‘No DSS’ policies could amount to indirect discrimination because women, especially single mothers, and people with disabilities, are more likely to rely on housing benefit to top up their rent. The bottom line is that discriminating against housing benefit tenants on face value is unacceptable in 2018.”

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