Housing Minister Heather Wheeler is calling for a ban on ‘No DSS’ advertising by landlords and letting agents.
‘DSS’ refers to the now defunct Department of Social Security which was closed in 2001. Tenants on housing benefit used to claim their benefit through the DSS. This department has now been replaced by the Department for Work and Pensions, however the name remains in common usage.
The move by the Housing Minister is aimed at reducing the discrimination against tenants who are claiming housing benefits.
The government notes that while 890,000 of the 4.5 million tenants in England are paid housing benefit or Universal Credit, half of landlords are unwilling to rent homes to them.
Housing charity Shelter and the National Housing Federation report that “No DSS” adverts are commonplace in the industry. When 86,000 property adverts were assessed on property website Zoopla from over 8,780 letting agent branches throughout England, 20 per cent had some form of advert that discriminated against those on housing benefit within their description.
Housing Minister Heather Wheeler claims this is unfair and discriminates against those on benefits.
“Everyone should have the same opportunity when looking for a home, regardless of whether they are in receipt of benefits,” she said.
“With Universal Credit, payments can be paid directly to the landlord, and we continue to listen to feedback and work with landlords to improve the system.”
Wheeler wants the ban on ‘No DSS’ adverts to start straight away and is scheduling a series of meetings with mortgage providers, landlord associations, tenant groups, and property websites to clamp down on blanket exclusions in adverts – with a view to stopping them altogether.
At the same time, the minister also confirmed nearly £20 million would be paid to local councils to help the homeless secure somewhere to rent. The money will go to 54 projects across England to spend on deposits and rents for the homeless.
Wheeler said: “I want everyone to have the security, dignity and opportunities they need to build a better life – at the heart of which is ensuring everyone can find a safe and secure home to call their own.
“This funding will make a huge difference in opening up the private rented sector to people who need it and give them the chance to rebuild their lives.”