Around 10% of rental properties in England are likely to be advertised unlawfully by explicitly discriminating against people who rely on housing benefit.
The analysis, published by the National Housing Federation (NHF) and Shelter, of around 86,000 letting agent adverts on Zoopla shows that 8,710 adverts for different residential properties in England say ‘no DSS’ or ‘no housing benefit’.
There are more than 1.4 million people in England who rely on housing benefit and are forced to rent privately due to the shortage of social housing.
Women and people with disabilities are disproportionately in this situation and therefore affected by discrimination.
Indirectly discriminating against woman and people with disabilities, by banning people on housing benefit, is likely to violate the 2010 Equality Act, says the NHF.
Many other adverts imply that DSS is not accepted by saying ‘professionals only’.
Zoopla are not the only online property platform to facilitate this potentially unlawful practice, the NHF say naming other platforms such as RightMove, SpareRoom.com and OpenRent.
‘This research shows that blatant discrimination against people on housing benefit is widespread,’ said Kate Henderson, chief executive of the NHF.
‘Landlords and letting agents are pushing people towards homelessness and could be breaking equality law. It is beyond me why property websites are permitting these adverts.
‘They’re sending the message that they’re ok discriminating against someone, simply because they’re on benefits. This has to change.
‘Many housing associations were created in the 50s and 60s in reaction to discrimination and racism from private landlords who wouldn’t house migrants, and said “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.” Today’s discrimination is hardly any different and we refuse to turn a blind eye.’
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘It’s staggering to see this discrimination laid out in black and white — and brazenly enforced by letting agents, landlords and online property websites. ‘No DSS’ is outdated, offensive and causing misery for thousands.’