Updated – A Different Way To Fight Housing Discrimination

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Indy Photo Coach - Justice Statue with light painting photo by Serge Melki is licensed under CC BY 2.0
England's courts rule on discrimination to broaden tenants' access to housing.

A recent investigation by the BBC in England shows that landlords are continuing discriminatory practices against people who receive social assistance. A court decision on July 1, 2020 (reported below) confirmed that the practice of refusing to rent to people on social assistance is unlawful.

The issue is most prevalent on web sites that advertise housing for rent. Read more about the BBC investigation here: Property site listings exclude renters on benefits

The BBC story is a reminder that however much we might wish it, a court decision doesn’t mean automatic compliance.

Education is often recommended when compliance is an issue. Here’s an example of a video that discusses the top four reasons landlords avoid renting to people who receive assistance. The presenter is a lawyer, who provides evidence and encourages landlords to reconsider their position. The video was prepared by ShelterUK, a housing agency that helps people who receive social assistance to access housing. The video, which might be also a model for use in other settings, is here: 4 Reasons Why There Shouldn’t Be Barriers To Renting To Tenants On Benefits

Below: our post on the July 1, 2020 court decision.

On July 1, an English a court handed down a ruling to make it easier for people who receive social assistance to move to housing in the private rental market.

For years, private letting agents refused to rent to people receiving assistance. It was no secret. The phrase “no DSS” appeared in ads for vacant units and the first question to prospective tenants was about their source of income. If housing assistance was disclosed, the letting agents informed prospective tenants that their application would not be considered as as a matter of policy.

Housing advocates began a “No to no DSS” campaign in 2018, arguing that the practice was discriminatory. The court decision adds weight to a public shaming campaign that targetted the three largest letting agents, making it illegal to refuse to rent to tenants who receive social assistance.

The decision estabishes that “no DSS” is discriminatory and illegal. This course of action could be worth considering in other jurisdictions, particularly the US, where housing is not a right and states can and do allow landlords to ignore housing assistance vouchers.

Read more about this decision in I: ‘No DSS’ bans on housing benefit ruled unlawful: what the court ruling means for tenants

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