Letting agents refusing accommodation to benefits recipients, reveals report

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22nd August 2018 17:28 - Housing

Letting agents refusing accommodation to benefits recipients, reveals report: The National Housing Federation and homeless charity, Shelter, have joined together for a campaign to stop letting agents discriminate against ‘DSS’ or housing benefit claimants.
It is in response to a mystery-shopper style investigation into 149 branches of letting agents in England, which they said found one in ten declined to let out properties to tenants who were in receipt of housing benefit.
The research
Researchers posed as prospective tenants and found that just under half (48%) of the branches called or visited said they had no suitable properties – or that landlords were unwilling to accommodate them. 
According to Shelter’s investigation, eight out of 25 Haarts branches turned the undercover researchers away, while Bridgefords and Dextors each turned away two out of 25 due to individual branch policies. Fox and Sons turned away housing benefits claimants in 2 out of 24 branches and Your Move, 1 out of 25. 
The Guardian reports that around 1.6 million people rely on housing benefit to help afford private rental costs.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "This ugly undercurrent of discrimination is wreaking havoc on hundreds of thousands of people's lives. 'No DSS' is an outdated and outrageous example of blatant prejudice."
In response to the research, Haarts (the UK's largest independent letting agency and estate agent), said: “ We do regularly arrange tenancies for those claiming housing benefits and currently have 112 tenancies where this is the case. This research has brought to light that some of our branches are misinformed and we are working to ensure that this policy is being followed across our network. We are sorry for any occasion where this has not been the case."
Following the national press coverage, the National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS) has questioned the campaign by the NHF and Shelter.
NALS chief executive Isobel Thomson said: “Shouldn’t we be working together to come up with solutions which could solve the ills of the sector to ensure that no vulnerable tenants are left behind rather than castigating one section of it"

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