'No DSS' No longer

Wed, 05 Aug 2020

The Department for Social Security or more commonly referred to as 'DSS', was the government department responsible for providing benefit payments. The department was however replaced in 2001 by the Department of Work and Pensions.

In the case of Rosie Keogh v Nicholas George Ltd, the complainant contacted a local letting agent regarding a property she was seeking to rent. As she disclosed that she was currently in receipt of Housing Benefits, the application was subsequently blocked.

In the Birmingham County Court, the court was informed that the letting agents had a blanket policy which prevented individuals in receipt of housing/welfare benefits securing rented accommodation. Submissions were advanced focusing on grounds of Equality, and that women; individuals with disabilities; or vulnerable members of society were more likely to be discriminated against as they were more likely to be in receipt of state payments.

The Respondents conceded that their policy was indirectly discriminatory and as such the matter was settled out of court.

On 1st July 2020, in the York County Court, District Judge Victoria Mark heard evidence relating to a 44 year old disabled single mother of two who approached a letting agent seeking to rent a property. Despite complying with the criteria for references, and financial support from her parents, the letting agent refused to allow her to rent any property on the basis that she was in receipt of benefits, and it was contrary to company policy. The learned judge gave judgment indicating that a rejection of tenancy applications on the basis of being in receipt of housing benefit unlawfully and indirectly discriminated against individuals contrary to section 19 and 29 of the Equality Act 2010.

These cases are but a few of the latest developments from the courts indicating that 'No DSS' is no policy that will be supported in law.

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