Housing charity Shelter has helped two tenants on benefits win out-of-court settlements after they were denied accommodation by a letting agent.

Shelter is warning landlords who insist on ‘No DSS’ conditions within property adverts that they face heavy fines after the charity helped two tenants win legal victories over letting agents who wouldn’t rent to benefit claimants.

Amanda Staples and Emma Loffler both won out-of-court settlements against ‘No DSS’ letting agents, on the grounds of indirect discrimination.

Shelter used a previously successful case of another single mother, Rosie Keogh, to successfully argue that blanket bans on claimants indirectly discriminated against women and disabled people who are more likely to be on benefits.

Ms Staples, 36, who has three primary-aged children, needed accommodation after her marriage broke down. Despite offering to pay six months’ rent up-front on a house, and with an offer of a loan from her father, the letting agent kept saying the landlord’s insurance did not cover tenants on benefits.

With Shelter backing her legal action, the letting agent ultimately agreed to write a public letter of apology and to pay £3,000 compensation and the £10,000 legal costs.

The agent in Ms Loffler’s case also issued a public letter of apology and paid £3,500 compensation and £2,500 towards legal costs.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate says letting agents and landlords must not treat potential tenants as second-class citizens simply because they rely on benefits.

“If they continue to blindly discriminate against those receiving housing benefit, they risk legal action and a hefty fine,” she says.

“Not only is ‘No DSS’ discrimination outdated and grossly unfair, it is unlawful under the Equality Act.”

The housing charity analysed 7,100 adverts on the biggest letting agent websites, and found more than one in 10 contained phrases such as ‘No DSS’ or similar.

Agents and landlords could face fines of about £5,000 per advert based on the three pay-outs made in cases so far, it says. However, a poll of 1,009 private landlords for the charity by YouGov in December 2019 and January 2020 revealed 86% thought ‘No DSS’ was lawful or were not sure.

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