Labour Councillors are calling for an end to discriminatory housing practices faced by benefit claimants in the private rental sector, at the council’s housing committee meeting on 22nd June.
Labour argues that we must do all we can to increase security and end benefit discrimination for renters in our city, by tackling ‘no DSS’ policies openly practiced by some landlords and letting agents.
Whilst recognising councils limited powers to intervene in the private rental sector, Labour stress that a third of residents in Brighton & Hove are private renters, and we must exercise the powers we do have to protect them, through landlord licensing schemes, banning orders on rogue landlords and additional support for tenants.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against anyone with a protected characteristic, and women and disabled people are disproportionately affected by ‘no DSS’ policies. As Shelter recently exposed with legal action, such policies are illegal, and sadly Acorn research has shown the practice is rife within Brighton & Hove.
Discriminatory practices by housing providers also take other forms. Prospective tenants who rely on benefits to pay their rent are routinely asked to provide a high-earning guarantor, often required to be earning £45,000 a year or more. Some are also asked to pay rent in advance – sometimes as much as 6 months. These practices act as barriers to benefits recipients being able to access housing.
Labour are clear that if we are serious about eradicating homelessness and getting to grips with the housing crisis, the practice of either refusing to let or effectively making it impossible for those on benefits to rent a home, must end.
Labour’s housing spokesperson, Cllr Gill Williams, says:
“It’s our moral obligation as a council to champion equality and the rights of renters by condemning discrimination in private housing, and to take all actions available to us in stamping out these unlawful practices employed by rogue landlords and letting agencies.
“A recent Acorn survey revealed that 61% of private renters had been told verbally by landlords or agencies that they would not accept tenants on benefits, which is even more worrying considering the current cost of living crisis.
“As a city, we rightly stand against discrimination in all its forms – we must show that same resolve on this issue, and stamp out discrimination against benefit claimants in the private rental sector.
“If we don’t act on this, by exercising our, admittedly limited, enforcement powers, and expanding the support we offer to tenants, homelessness will continue to plague our city.
“We need Government to act too, and whilst some parts of their latest white paper are promising, those in dire need of housing in the city are not holding their breath, as we still await the promise to end no fault evictions being delivered on.
“Over a third of our residents are private renters and we must support them, now and for the future.”