New research conducted by Citizens Advice Southampton has revealed the almost impossible task of finding a home for those on low incomes.
Of 135 rental properties advertised on a popular website, just 14 said that they would accept tenants on benefits – highlighting the difficulties facing many prospective tenants in the Southampton and surrounding area.
A new ruling, however, brought before York County Court has given hope to residents, after the judge found that a letting agent who refused to accept a working single mum on benefits, had acted unlawfully under the Equality Act 2010. The landlord in question was judged to have discriminated against women and disabled people – two groups more likely to be in receipt of support measures such as Housing Benefit and Universal Credit.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has already seen rising unemployment and an increase in the number of people claiming financial support. Since the beginning of the lockdown in March, Citizens Advice Southampton has helped more than 3,300 clients with issues around housing, employment and benefits.
The new ruling will come as a welcome boost in light of the research findings, for those individuals seeking privately rented accommodation.
Liz Donegan, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Southampton, said:
“Affordable, good quality housing is already in short supply in the City and the wider region – and “no DSS” policies further reduce the housing options for those in receipt of benefits. The message to landlords and letting agents is clear: scrap these policies or risk ending up in court.
“Clients come to us asking how they can find a home when so many landlords won’t accept them. These people are often single parents or people with disabilities and are on benefits through no fault of their own. Nearly a third of the people who ask us for help accessing privately rented homes are disabled.
“People need to be able to find a new home without fearing they’ll be turned away because of already very difficult circumstances. The ruling could not have come at a better time.”
Citizens Advice Southampton recommends that anyone affected by these policies challenges the landlord or letting agent concerned, citing the ruling, or contacts their local Citizens Advice office for further support.
- Advice from Citizens Advice Southampton can be accessed through online at https://citizensadvicesouthampton.org.uk or by calling Adviceline on 0300 330 2166