End income discrimination

We're campaigning against discrimination that people who receive benefits face when looking for a home.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of renters are being locked out of properties that they can afford, simply because all or part of their income is from benefits.

This is discrimination, and it’s unlawful.

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In addition to blanket bans such as 'No DSS' or 'professionals only', new and informal barriers are being placed in front of renters:

  • people are being told they have to come up with several months' rent in advance

  • there's excessive use of guarantors with additional conditions

  • and some are even prevented from viewing properties altogether

Because these barriers to renting are presented informally, they are harder to document or challenge.

This discrimination has a direct and devastating impact on the lives of people who receive benefits. It causes huge levels of stress and anxiety; it leads to people staying in unsuitable and unsafe accommodation because they can’t move – and ultimately, it fuels the housing emergency.

We've won important changes but there's still more to do

Since the start of this campaign, we’ve proven that blanket bans against people who receive benefits are unlawful. Now we need those with powers to enforce against income discrimination to step up and use them.

Councils can do more locally, and must:

  • use their existing enforcement powers to crack down on landlords and letting agents who discriminate

But crucially, the government must step in and use its power to regulate by:

  • fulfilling its promise to professionalise the lettings industry, with a legally enforceable Code of Practice

  • ensuring that local authorities have the resources they need to crack down on landlords and letting agents who flout the law

Yes, I'll join the campaign

Have you experienced income discrimination in your search for a home? We've created a guide to help you challenge this.

Key campaign wins

  • Winning the landmark court rulings that declared housing benefit discrimination is unlawful. At two historic hearings involving Shelter clients at York and Birmingham County Courts, ‘No DSS’ discrimination was declared unlawful. 

    These wins prove without a doubt that agents operating ‘No DSS’ policies are not only acting unjustly but also unlawfully. This is a huge breakthrough for our campaign!

  • Securing big wins as Zoopla, SpareRoom and Rightmove remove ‘No DSS’ restrictions from their sites
    These should no longer appear on the property portals' adverts

  • Stamping out DSS discrimination in the buy-to-let mortgage industry
    Many landlords used to have terms in their mortgages which prevented them from letting to tenants who receive housing benefit. But in 2020 it’s nothing more than a myth. Industry leader Mortgages for Business tell us that they think over 99% of the buy-to-let mortgage market is now ‘No DSS’ free.

    Thanks to our campaigning, all the major players have removed their ‘No DSS’ clauses, including in historic contracts, and confirmed that they won't enforce them in future cases.

  • Demonstrating that insurance policies that don’t discriminate are available
    Some thought landlord insurance policies prohibited landlords from letting to tenants who receive housing benefit. But through our work with the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (IBBA), we’ve shown that most insurance brokers can find insurance policies that cover this situation at little or no extra cost.

  • Getting confirmation that there is no excuse for blanket bans
    Organisations like the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) and The Property Ombudsman (TPO) confirmed that there is no excuse or justification for letting agents and landlords having blanket bans against tenants who receive housing benefit.

Organisations supporting our campaign

For those of us with mental health problems, finding a safe, suitable and stable place to call home can be so important. But discriminatory No DSS policies can make that aim so much harder for anyone who needs support from the benefits system when they’re unwell. That’s why Mind support Shelter’s campaign to end income discrimination.

We all want to live in a society where proper support is in place when help is most needed – our benefits system was created to do exactly this. Yet for the majority of people referred to food banks, benefits are their main source of income and they are still struggling to stay afloat. To then be told you’re not allowed to rent a home is simply not right. It can and must change. That’s why the Trussell Trust supports Shelter’s End DSS Discrimination campaign.

By the time Universal Credit rolls out, nearly all of the 2 million single parents in the UK will be eligible to receive it. Many of these single parents live in rented accommodation but can struggle to find a suitable home for themselves and their children because of unfair restrictions placed on benefit recipients by landlords and letting agents. This needs to change. That’s why Gingerbread, the charity for single-parent families, supports Shelter’s call to end DSS discrimination.

Turn 2 Us supports Shelter’s campaign to end DSS discrimination because any and all forms of prejudice are unacceptable.

St Mungo’s provides housing and support to thousands of homeless and vulnerable people, many of whom have experienced rough sleeping. Lots of people who have slept rough claim housing benefit to help pay their rent when they move off the streets, and it is a crucial form of support to help people rebuild their lives. Blanket bans on tenants who claim housing benefit make it more difficult for people to move on from homelessness, leaving them trapped in unsafe situations. That’s why we’re supporting Shelter’s campaign to end DSS discrimination.