‘No DSS’ discrimination ruled unlawful for second time

Stephen Tyler and Shelter solicitor Rose Arnall outside Birmingham County Court 08.09.20 Cropped (4) (Demo)

‘No DSS’ discrimination has once again been ruled unlawful by a UK court after a disabled man won a trial at Birmingham County Court yesterday.

Judge Mary Stacey ruled the practice unlawful and in breach of the Equality Act on the grounds of disability after Stephen Tyler was barred from viewing properties advertised by an estate agent on the grounds of his receiving housing benefit.

The case marks the second time that ‘no DSS’ discrimination has been found unlawful by a UK court after a similar ruling was made earlier this year in a landmark case at York County Court.

The ruling, which puts landlords and letting agents at risk of legal action if they bar housing benefit tenants from renting, has been hailed by the housing charity Shelter which assisted Tyler with the case.

The rulings vindicates Shelter research which shows ‘No DSS’ policies unfairly disadvantage women and disabled people in finding a home, as they are more likely to receive housing benefit.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Shelter has been fighting ‘No DSS’ discrimination for the past two years because we know it pushes people to the brink of homelessness and leaves many feeling worthless.

“This win proves yet again that blanket bans against people on housing benefit are unlawful because they overwhelmingly bar women and disabled people like Stephen, who are more likely to need help with their rent, from finding a safe home.”

Tyler, who uses a wheelchair and lives with mental health issues, and his family lost their home in February 2018 after they were served with a section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice from their landlord.

The family were left unable to find a new home after Birmingham estate agent Paul Carr told them it was ‘company policy’ to refuse to rent to people who receive housing benefit. They subsequently applied for homelessness with the local council.

Shelter’s legal team took on the family’s homelessness case and helped them to secure the social home they live in now.

Judge Mary Stacey said in her ruling: “There is no doubt that there was a blanket policy that no one in receipt of housing benefit would be considered for the three properties. It put the claimant and other disabled people at a particular disadvantage when compared to others.

“To be told simply, because of his benefit status, that he could not apply for three properties which were perfectly located for his children’s school, his GP and health needs, and extended family support, […] would be distressing.

“We make a declaration that the defendant has unlawfully indirectly discriminated against the claimant by imposing a PCP [Provision, Criteria or Practice] that those in receipt of housing benefit could not apply to those three properties.”

Neate added: “It’s senseless that people who can afford private rents are being forced into homelessness by blind prejudice.

“It’s now time for landlords and letting agents to do better; they must consider tenants fairly based on their ability to afford the rent – not where their income comes from.”

Image: Stephen Tyler and Shelter solicitor Rose Arnall outside Birmingham County Court on 8 September. Credit: Shelter.

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