For years, many tenants looking to secure private accommodation were stopped by the usual sign “No DSS” which was often found in shop windows of estate agencies, internet ads, or which was the basic response on the back end of a 10 second phone call. This meant that anyone who was in need of assistance from the state with paying their rent would find it much more difficult to find accommodation. Sadly, it was the most vulnerable members of society, single parents or those who just needed a helping hand that would generally face the “no DSS reaction” and so were left either homeless, continuing to live in overcrowded or substandard accommodation or having to move away from family, friends and support networks.
Finally, after years of hardship and people being mistreated based upon their finances and personal circumstances, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the “No DSS” rule is unlawful. This simply means that people cannot be refused or rejected based upon their need to rely upon housing benefit or assistance from the local authority. Whilst the Court of Appeal has made this ruling, it is not a binding decision, but it is a decision that should bring about some change.
The case was brought by a disabled single mother who claimed that the ‘No DSS’ discriminated against her sex and disability and so was contrary to the Equality Act 2010. Despite having excellent references from former landlords and an unblemished tenant character, she was refused accommodation due to her reliance on state benefits to pay towards her rent.
In this day and age where it is almost impossible to get on the property ladder without a significant and sizeable deposit, private sector accommodation has been in more demand than ever. However, those in receipt of benefits, whether due to physical or mental illness or disability, motherhood or some other reason, would face even greater difficulties in securing a suitable home for them and their family.
Social tenancies are scarce, and local authorities often advise those seeking help to find their own private tenancies. On top of the problems with rent levels and deposits many faced additional hurdles merely as a result of their benefit status. Even with a month’s rent upfront, a deposit, and good references, the mere fact that they receive housing assistance would restrict their ability to move into the home of their choice.
Every person should be afforded the freedom to secure the home of their choice, and with the change in attitude of the courts to “no DSS” perhaps this will enable people to find a home easier than has been previously, which in turn will help with the homelessness issues that many face.