PEOPLE claiming housing benefit in Brighton are being told that they are not welcome in the vast majority of properties listed on a popular housing website. 

Despite a court ruling earlier in the year that made it unlawful to blanket ban people on benefits, landlords in Brighton on Spare Room still appear to be avoiding tenants on housing benefit.

Out of 21 entire properties to rent in Brighton found on Spare Room - but out of those, only three are marked as ‘housing benefit considered’.

Spare Room was displaying a ‘new tenant preferences’ list, which gave the landlord the option to consider whether benefits claimants are considered for tenancy or not.

A spokesperson for Spare Room said: “Some Buy to Let mortgages do still prohibit landlords from renting to people who receive housing benefit, so we’re changing the advertising process so that a specific mortgage clause is the only reason we’ll allow for saying they won’t rent to tenants on benefits.”

Some landlords are prevented from renting to tenants claiming benefits due to the nature of their buy-to-let mortgages.

As a result, Spare Room has now changed its filter - on the eve of this story being published.

Instead of 'housing benefits considered', the site now displays an option to 'hide ads that can't accept housing benefit (due to mortgage/insurance restrictions)' which it argues is necessary for these landlords.

People on housing benefit are often referred to by the acronym DSS, which stands for Department for Social Security, the forerunner of the Department for Work and Pensions, which oversees Universal Credit.

In July, a judge at York County Court ruled that blanket ‘No DSS’ rental bans by letting agents are unlawful and discriminatory under the Equality Act.

Because this judgement was from a low-level court it is not a binding rule for other cases. However, charities and campaigners are hoping it will stick.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: “July’s historic hearing sends a clear message to landlords and letting agents to drive out these old discriminatory practices for good – or risk legal action.”

The Argus:

Chief Executive of Shelter, Polly Neate (Image: Shelter).

Out of 21 properties available on Spare Room, less than 14 per cent are available to tenants in receipt of benefits.

However, there's a different picture when it comes to house shares. Out of 892 properties on the site in Brighton, 105 of which are available to those receiving housing benefit - with over 80 of those being house shares or bedsits. 

The cheapest price of a one-bedroom studio flat in the city on Zoopla is £665 whilst the most expensive comes in at  £2,200. 

Whilst the cheapest two-bed property in Swindon is currently priced at £1,050 per month, nearly double cheapest one-bedroom property. Whilst the most expensive two-bedroom rental is  £2,678 per month.

The Argus:

With renting becoming increasingly difficult as we navigate the coronavirus pandemic, research by Shelter shows that almost 230,000 private renters in England have fallen into arrears since the pandemic started. 

In May the government extended the ban on evicting tenants however this is scheduled to end in just over three weeks.

Shelter has revealed that despite the evictions ban, more than 170,000 private tenants have already been threatened with eviction by their landlord or letting agent.

With the furlough scheme scheduled to end next month and the UK being officially in a recession, more people than ever will be relying on benefits to survive.

Billy Harding, Research and Policy Officer at Centrepoint (charity for young homeless people) said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a 50% increase in the number of young people contacting our helpline seeking housing support.

“The ‘No DSS’ court ruling is a step in the right direction- tenants have the power to challenge landlords and letting agents if they are acting unlawfully and contrary to the equality act.

He added: "Platforms shouldn’t have [housing benefits] filters- people should be assessed on an individual basis and not just the way they receive their rent."

If you are having difficulty securing a rental property due to receiving benefits, you can contact Shelter England for advice and support on what to do next. 

A template letter can also be found on Shelter’s website, alongside free and expert housing advice.