LETTING agents are discriminating against tenants on housing benefit, an undercover investigation has found.
Shelter and the National Housing Federation found one-in-ten agents in England refused to let to those on the benefit. The undercover investigation found the policy was enforced even if tenants could afford the rent.
Stephen Tyler told the BBC that housing benefit discrimination had forced him to sleep in his car.
‘We have been trying to find accommodation since we were evicted from our last property when we asked for adaptations to be made for wheelchair access. ‘I phone anything up to 20 landlords, estate agents, a day and none of them will accept DSS (tenants on Department of Social Security housing benefits).’ He said he had approached his council as well as housing associations, but ‘no one wants to help at all.’
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 “No DSS” is an outdated and outrageous example of blatant prejudice.’ The investigation into 149 regional letting agent branches found five of England’s leading letting agents were discriminating against tenants on housing benefit, with Haart the worst offender.
Shoppers, deployed by the charities, had encountered a ban on housing benefit tenants in eight out of 25 Haart branches. A spokesman for Haart said: ‘It is not our policy to refuse housing benefit tenants – anyone who passes referencing checks is able to rent properties listed with our branches.
‘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.’
Others named as having individual branch policies not to accept people on housing benefit were Bridgfords (two out of 25 branches visited), Dexters (two out of 25), Fox & Sons (two out of 24) and Your Move (one out of 25). Almost half of all branches called during the investigation said they had no suitable homes or landlords willing to let to someone on housing benefit. The report claims that a shortfall in social housing means that an estimated 1.64 million adults rely on housing benefit to help cover private rents.