'No DSS' unlawful

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discovolante
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'No DSS' unlawful

Post by discovolante » Tue Jul 14, 2020 2:57 pm

'No DSS' letting bans 'ruled unlawful' by court

A judge has ruled that blanket bans on renting properties to people on housing benefit are unlawful and discriminatory.

The "momentous" court ruling found a single mother-of-two had experienced indirect discrimination when a letting agent refused to rent to her.

She ended up homeless with her two children, when her case was taken on by housing charity Shelter.

The judge ruled "No DSS" rental bans are against equality laws.

Previously cases backed by Shelter - and first reported by BBC News - have established that "No DSS" landlords and agents are guilty of indirect discrimination, but the cases were settled before any court heard them in full.

...

District Judge Victoria Mark heard this latest case in York County Court on 1 July, and ruled: "Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of sex and disability".

And this was, therefore, contrary to the Equality Act 2010, she said.

...

The ruling of indirect discrimination is due to the fact that women and those with disabilities are disproportionately more likely to be in receipt of housing benefit, and therefore disproportionately affected by blanket "No DSS" bans.

The successful case is the latest step in the charity's [Shelter's] End DSS Discrimination campaign to stop the practice, which excludes thousands of people from renting homes each year - and the charity hopes the ruling will send a clear message that landlords or agents who continue to refuse to rent to housing benefit claimants risk legal action.
(there's more stuff in the article)

Obviously I think this is good news and about time.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Jul 14, 2020 3:04 pm

Good.

I'm a bit surprised/annoyed that the argument comes from indirectly discriminating against women and disabled people rather than just because it's discriminating against poor people, but at least we have the right outcome.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by discovolante » Tue Jul 14, 2020 3:09 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 3:04 pm
Good.

I'm a bit surprised/annoyed that the argument comes from indirectly discriminating against women and disabled people rather than just because it's discriminating against poor people, but at least we have the right outcome.
Yeah unfortunately socioeconomic status isn't a protected characteristic so it's a pretty tricky one...

By the way this is only a county court judgment, which is the lowest court, so it could technically be appealed but I don't know how likely that would be at the moment. My gut feeling is it would be a pretty bold move given the number of these cases that settled out of court before now - they know it's wrong innit.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by JQH » Tue Jul 14, 2020 4:38 pm

As you say, about bl..dy time too.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by murmur » Tue Jul 14, 2020 4:59 pm

Yup, a good result at last!
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by bmforre » Tue Jul 14, 2020 5:49 pm

Congratulations on this outcome and thanks to all taking part on the striving and winning side.

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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by discovolante » Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:34 pm

Oooh I can post a link to the court order and reasons!

It's a PDF linked to in this blog, which also explains a bit more about the case:

https://nearlylegal.co.uk/2020/07/discr ... nd-no-dss/

The reasons include numerous sets of stats relating to HB claimants which are interesting. Also the blog makes a point about the fact that it's a county court decision that I omitted, but it does now seem quite clear that it won't be appealed...

BOAF I think your comment about being surprised about the reasons for the decision about discrimination deserves a bit of a better explanation than I gave earlier so I will have a stab at it later if you're interested (although no doubt I will miss stuff/get stuff wrong unlike Nearly Legal who is *never* wrong...). But I won't be offended if you're not ;)

On the downside of all this, there is having rights on the one hand, and being able to enforce them on the other, especially if agencies/landlords start being a bit more covert about their policies...
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Jul 14, 2020 10:07 pm

discovolante wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:34 pm
BOAF I think your comment about being surprised about the reasons for the decision about discrimination deserves a bit of a better explanation than I gave earlier so I will have a stab at it later if you're interested (although no doubt I will miss stuff/get stuff wrong unlike Nearly Legal who is *never* wrong...). But I won't be offended if you're not ;)
Your reply earlier did make sense, and I suppose I should have thought that have little money isn't a protected characteristic, and the blog fleshes out the context a bit too. But I'm always interested in moar info so if you have time that'd be interesting!
discovolante wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:34 pm
On the downside of all this, there is having rights on the one hand, and being able to enforce them on the other, especially if agencies/landlords start being a bit more covert about their policies...
Presumably the shift to universal credit means that these days landlords/agents always have to know who receives housing benefit, whereas in the old days the tenant was responsible for paying anyway.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Millennie Al » Wed Jul 15, 2020 3:28 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 10:07 pm
Presumably the shift to universal credit means that these days landlords/agents always have to know who receives housing benefit, whereas in the old days the tenant was responsible for paying anyway.
I'm not too sure about when the various changes were made, but I believe the "No DSS" rule (which is obviously quite old as the DSS no longer exists) was reasonably rational, and possibly still is.

In a landlord and tenant relationship there is a large asymmetry. The landlord is risking a very valuable asset, and the tenant risks great stress and expense if they get evicted. The law makes some attempt to help by making it rather difficult to evict tenants, but only helps landlords who have rich tenants. If you have a rich tenant who fails to pay the rent or damages your property, you can sue them and recover your losses. However if you have a poor tenant suing them is just throwing away more money because they have no way to pay you when you win. In fact, it's even worse than that because poor people have fewer resources in general, so are harder to find. A wealthy person can have a car, job, and bank accounts which can be used to track them down, but a poor person might be very difficult to find. Consequently, landlords take a bigger risk with poor tenants than rich ones.

However, that would apply to any tenants - not just those on benefits, and not all poorer tenant have equal difficulty finding accommodation. There are other factors which make tenants on benefits more risky. A poor person on benefits relies on their benefits to pay the rent, but there are many ways that things go wrong, leaving them (through no fault of their own) unable to pay the rent. Of course this burden falls on the landlord who has also done nothing wrong, but ends up providing accommodation free or at reduced cost. Even if the tenant is evicted, the arrears may never get paid. At least the current ultra low interest rates mean that if the tenant is not evicted, the benefits eventually turn up and the arrears are cleared the landlord's loss is quite small.

There is another serious injustice which makes a tenant on benefits a risky prospect - if it turns out that they were not entitled to benefits, the money already paid in rent might be reclaimed from the landlord. Unless the landlord was in some way consipring with the tenant, this is obviously very wrong - if the state with all its powers cannot correctly determine whether a particular tenant is eligible, how can their landlord - a private citizen or company - be expected to know? In many ways this is the worst case scenario as in this case it is even more useless than ever suing the tenant for the money as they are very unlikely to be able to pay anything - especially if they get convicted of benefit fraud and fined or imprisoned. I had thought that this scenario had been eliminated, but reading https://www.thetenantsvoice.co.uk/your_ ... s-tenants/ I find
The worst case scenario is when a tenant has fraudulently claimed housing benefits. Local councils have a mechanism where they can require the landlord to return the money if their tenant was never eligible to receive the benefits in the first place.
What should be happening is a socialised housing: the cost of housing poor people is subsidised by the fair taxes raised appropriately across the whole population. Instead the state dodges some of this responsibilty by pushing some of the costs onto landlords, which is unfair as some are wealthy with a large number of properties, but many are just ordinary citizens with one or two (and even people who need to move for some reason and cannot sell - e.g. negative equity, temporary job location - who are themselves tenants elsewhere).
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by discovolante » Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:44 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 10:07 pm
discovolante wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:34 pm
BOAF I think your comment about being surprised about the reasons for the decision about discrimination deserves a bit of a better explanation than I gave earlier so I will have a stab at it later if you're interested (although no doubt I will miss stuff/get stuff wrong unlike Nearly Legal who is *never* wrong...). But I won't be offended if you're not ;)
Your reply earlier did make sense, and I suppose I should have thought that have little money isn't a protected characteristic, and the blog fleshes out the context a bit too. But I'm always interested in moar info so if you have time that'd be interesting!
discovolante wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:34 pm
On the downside of all this, there is having rights on the one hand, and being able to enforce them on the other, especially if agencies/landlords start being a bit more covert about their policies...
Presumably the shift to universal credit means that these days landlords/agents always have to know who receives housing benefit, whereas in the old days the tenant was responsible for paying anyway.
On the UC point, the housing costs element is paid to the claimant direct as default: https://www.gov.uk/housing-and-universa ... e-landlord. If there are arrears or problems with payment then an application can be made for it to be paid direct to the landlord, but it's assessed on a case by case basis: https://www.gov.uk/government/publicati ... rangements

(note that in Scotland tenants can just choose what they would prefer, at any stage arrears or not, without having to give reasons).

Regarding discrimination...well I'm not sure what I could have to add that you might not already realise and/or is interesting but I will have a go at outlining how the Equality Act works mainly in terms of indirect discrimination. Disclaimer - this isn't legal advice and will almost certainly contain errors and omissions ;)

OK so as you know, the Equality Act 2010 deals with discrimination in respect of certain 'protected characteristics', which are set out in Chapter 1. Chapter 1 also provides more detailed definitions of each of the characteristics so far as the Act is concerned (by which I mean, you don't necessarily have to agree with the definitions on a moral or sociological basis of course - nor do you have to agree with the limited number of protected characteristics, or any of the Act for that matter, it would probably be quite an interesting subject to research).

People still sometimes refer to things like the Disability Discrimination Act/DDA. The DDA was repealed almost 10 years ago when the Equality Act came into force.

The Act then sets out conduct which is prohibited under it, which I'll come back to.

After that, the Act sets out various institutions/activities and explains how the terms of the Act relate to them - e.g. schools, public bodies, transport etc. In order to succeed in a claim (or defence) under the EA you need to show that the other side is acting in respect of one of these functions or activities. One of these functions/activities is provision of services, which is set out in section 29. This seems to be the one that was chosen for the claim although it doesn't seem to be addressed in detail in the court order/reasons. Section 29(1) says:
A person (a “service-provider”) concerned with the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public (for payment or not) must not discriminate against a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service.
I could easily be wrong about this but I assume that s29 was used rather than section 33(1), which says:
A person (A) who has the right to dispose of premises must not discriminate against another (B)—

(a) as to the terms on which A offers to dispose of the premises to B;
(b) by not disposing of the premises to B; [my bold!]
(c) in A's treatment of B with respect to things done in relation to persons seeking premises
because the defendant in this case was a letting agent rather than a landlord.

So there you have prohibitions against discriminating if you are providing a service to the public, and in terms of how you 'dispose' of premises (e.g. letting it out under a tenancy).

Going back to the prohibited acts, there are several, the main ones that apply to several different protected characteristics being:

- direct discrimination
- indirect discrimination
- duty to make adjustments (and the corresponding failure to do so) (also this is an 'interesting' one because you have to ask for the adjustment to be made unless it specifically relates to a public body/service
- harassment
- victimisation

As I mentioned there are several others - discrimination arising from disability (s15) is a really 'useful' one. Although sadly one of the improvements from the DDA in the EA in terms of direct discrimination whereby the discrimination doesn't have to be in relation to the protected characteristic of the person who is suffering as a result of it (e.g. carers of disabled people being sacked for absence from work) hasn't been applied more broadly but that's a different discussion I suppose.

Aaaaanyway obviously this case dealt with indirect discrimination. The provision says:
(1)A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if A applies to B a provision, criterion or practice which is discriminatory in relation to a relevant protected characteristic of B's.

(2)For the purposes of subsection (1), a provision, criterion or practice is discriminatory in relation to a relevant protected characteristic of B's if—

(a)A applies, or would apply, it to persons with whom B does not share the characteristic,
(b)it puts, or would put, persons with whom B shares the characteristic at a particular disadvantage when compared with persons with whom B does not share it,
(c)it puts, or would put, B at that disadvantage, and
(d)A cannot show it to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
So what this more or less means is:

- there must be a 'provision, criterion or practice' (a 'PCP'): this is quite broadly defined and there is guidance that gives examples, but in addition to a 'no DSS' policy you could have obvious ones like 'no single mothers' or less obviously discriminatory ones like 'all tenants in rent arrears must complete a specific financial form by themselves'. Or in a non-housing context, I dunno not having a flexible working policies which, if it wasn't already a legal requirement, would discriminate against women and/or disabled people for example.

The PCP is discriminatory if:

It applies or would be applied to people who do not have the characteristic

So to generalise/broadly speaking, it's a PCP that applies across the board to everyone whether or not they have a protected characteristic.

It puts, or would put, persons with whom B shares the characteristic at a particular disadvantage when compared with persons with whom B does not share it

So this is the fun bit, because if you are claiming discrimination you have to show that it would put people who share your characteristic (e.g. women, disabled people) in general at a disadvantage. So you need evidence like the statistics set out in the court order in the no DSS case to show that this is a problem that affects that group of people who have the protected characteristic. Obviously that can be quite difficult if quality statistics/evidence on that issue are not routinely gathered and are hard to come by.

The phrase 'particular disadvantage' is also a bit tricky but I won't try and get my head around that now.

It puts, or would put, B at that disadvantage

So here you just have to show that the person claiming discrimination is actually put, or would be put, at that disadvantage. In the no DSS case then obviously the claimant was put at the disadvantage because the letting agency refused to take her on.

A cannot show it to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim

Here the onus of proving things moves to the er, discriminator. I guess in the 'no DSS' case, the aim of the letting agency is legitimate in that they want to provide landlords with 'financially viable' tenants, which in terms of the business they operate is probably fair enough. It seems the parties agreed that the policy wasn't 'justified'; the order doesn't break it down any further but I assume the point is that it isn't a proportionate means of achieving the aim of providing financially viable tenants. I think this is relevant to Millenie Al's post which I think I might try to come back to at a different time.

So anywhere there you go.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by discovolante » Thu Jul 16, 2020 1:34 pm

OK I'm going to have a go at this one now. This is mostly keeping the 'proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim' rule in mind, obviously this is quite a legalistic perspective but also a fairly rational one in that it gives landlords (or service providers, whoever) some leeway where they can justify it, but only if they can justify it. So if they can show, with evidence, that the things you have set out would cause them to suffer financial loss if they didn't have blanket 'no DSS' bans, and there was no other way around it, they would probably succeed in showing that they weren't in breach of discrimination legislation.
Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 3:28 am
The law makes some attempt to help by making it rather difficult to evict tenants, but only helps landlords who have rich tenants. If you have a rich tenant who fails to pay the rent or damages your property, you can sue them and recover your losses. However if you have a poor tenant suing them is just throwing away more money because they have no way to pay you when you win. In fact, it's even worse than that because poor people have fewer resources in general, so are harder to find. A wealthy person can have a car, job, and bank accounts which can be used to track them down, but a poor person might be very difficult to find. Consequently, landlords take a bigger risk with poor tenants than rich ones.
In terms of eviction, currently in E&W as you know landlords can evict people using the procedure under section 21 Housing Act 1988. There are a number of things the LL will have to have complied with to be able to use the procedure, mostly relating to the protection of tenants (e.g. deposit protection, gas safety certificate - s21 has effectively been used as a tool to increase compliance with these requirements), however there is no need to prove fault, no need to prove that it's reasonable to evict the tenant. The tenancy has to be at the end of its term and the LL has to give two months' notice (ignoring legislative changes in response to covid). If a LL chooses to renew a tenancy for longer terms like year on year that's on them, it's perfectly possible to have a tenancy that runs month to month.

If a tenant is in arrears the LL can use both section 21 and a claim for the arrears (either as ground for eviction or as a separate money/debt claim) - I agree that poor tenants aren't often worth suing but the point is the option is open to bring a claim for money under s21 as well to increase your prospects of getting *something* back. If the tenant is in at least 2 months of arrears (if rent is paid monthly), then the LL can use Ground 8 - which means if the ground is met the court has absolutely no discretion but to order eviction (unless there is say, a defence under the Equality Act or a viable disrepair counterclaim which could give rise to compensation that would offset the arrears).

There are a few counterarguments to this:

1) There are delays in the courts and it takes a long time for claims to be dealt with. I'm not going to argue with that; the court system is in an absolute shambles in part due to court closure, staff shortages etc and this is affecting everyone. This is a policy issue and I cannot see a rational justification for saying 'I am not going to let properties to *any* person claiming HB because the government has failed to ensure the court system functions correctly'. There is a constant tension between individuals, executive bodies such as local authorities, the court system etc and the national government in litigation, which needs to be tackled on a higher level but well that isn't happening any time soon so it's tough luck for everyone in the meantime I suppose.

2) Part of the delays (but by no means all) *may* be down to landlords themselves not knowing the system. There was a weird consultation in 2018 about the possibility of creating a separate 'housing court', away from the normal county court system, which seemed to focus primarily on landlords' perceptions of the efficiency of the current system in evicting people. The call for evidence is here (PDF). It may well be that e.g. some LLs don't know that after they get an order for possession, they then have to get a warrant to evict. The consultation doesn't seem to have got anywhere since then though, funnily enough.

So, there are issues with 'the system', one way or the other, but that is in no small part down to 'the system' not working as it should. You might disagree that that's a poor reason to justify a blanket ban, and to some extent you would have a point (e.g. the courts often take into account local authorities' 'limited resources' when deciding on issues relating to homelessness/council housing), but again this is about a *blanket* ban rather than just taking extra precautions - e.g. getting guarantors, keeping tenancy terms short if you think that would help, etc. You can look at the tenant's history - have they been on HB for a while and managed to maintain payments? If so that reduces the risk. If they are newly on HB then you look at things like guarantors and so on. I'm not sure what a court would say about insisting on a certain number of months' rent in advance in these situations - this would almost certainly exclude people newly on HB from being able to rent as they probably wouldn't have the money anyway, but if it can be shown that there is a risk in relation to that individual tenant, perhaps a LL could argue that it is justified - I don't know. I don't really like that idea personally but that's because I'm a big tenant loving softy.
A poor person on benefits relies on their benefits to pay the rent, but there are many ways that things go wrong, leaving them (through no fault of their own) unable to pay the rent. Of course this burden falls on the landlord who has also done nothing wrong, but ends up providing accommodation free or at reduced cost. Even if the tenant is evicted, the arrears may never get paid. At least the current ultra low interest rates mean that if the tenant is not evicted, the benefits eventually turn up and the arrears are cleared the landlord's loss is quite small.
It pains me to say this but a lot of benefit issues are, at least initially, down to claimant error (I am not sure of any stats, sorry not going to try and look anything up now but I'm just speaking anecdotally). The problem is that relatively small errors have a snowballing effect that is disproportionate. E.g. before Universal Credit, a common reason for people's HB being stopped was because they stopped being on a 'passporting benefit (eg. income based Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance etc) and either assuming that meant they could no longer claim HB - and therefore struggling financially - or not realising that the stopping of that benefit meant that their HB would be cut off unless they provided further evidence of their income. But again this is a situation where you can look at the tenant's history, and assess the risk on a case by case basis. If the error is down to the authority that administers the benefit, as you point out it can often be recovered. So can this risk justify a blanket ban on all HB claimants? Would it be justifiable to say, ban all working women of childbearing age in case they got pregnant and were unlawfully sacked by their employer?
There is another serious injustice which makes a tenant on benefits a risky prospect - if it turns out that they were not entitled to benefits, the money already paid in rent might be reclaimed from the landlord. Unless the landlord was in some way consipring with the tenant, this is obviously very wrong - if the state with all its powers cannot correctly determine whether a particular tenant is eligible, how can their landlord - a private citizen or company - be expected to know? In many ways this is the worst case scenario as in this case it is even more useless than ever suing the tenant for the money as they are very unlikely to be able to pay anything - especially if they get convicted of benefit fraud and fined or imprisoned. I had thought that this scenario had been eliminated, but reading https://www.thetenantsvoice.co.uk/your_ ... s-tenants/ I find
The worst case scenario is when a tenant has fraudulently claimed housing benefits. Local councils have a mechanism where they can require the landlord to return the money if their tenant was never eligible to receive the benefits in the first place.
Even if that was accurate, is the possibility of a tenant committing benefit fraud, and the council then seeking to recover it from the landlord, a justification for a *blanket ban*? Really? Are landlords at more financial risk from tenants committing HB fraud than any other possible risk that might arise when renting out a property to someone?

But again - focusing on HB (I'm not a benefit specialist so am looking this up now) - Section 75(3)(a) and (b) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 provide:
(3) An amount recoverable under this section shall be recoverable–
(a) except in such circumstances as may be prescribed, from the person to whom it was paid; and
(b) where regulations so provide, from such other person (as well as, or instead of, the person to whom it was paid) as may be prescribed
(The page on legislation.gov.uk is out of date so the link doesn't actually show that, I've had to look up the up to date version)

The prescribed circumstances specifically in relation to landlords (there are other circumstances which could apply to landlords but this post is going to go on forever) are in Reg 101 Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 (again legislation.gov.uk is a bit out of date):
(1) For the purposes of section 75(3)(a) of the Administration Act (prescribed circumstances in which an amount recoverable shall not be recovered from the person to whom it was paid), the prescribed circumstance is—

(a) housing benefit has been paid in accordance with regulation 95 (circumstances in which payment is to be made to the landlord) or regulation 96 (circumstances in which payment may be made to a landlord);
(b) the landlord has notified the relevant authority or the Secretary of State in writing that he suspects that there has been an overpayment;
(bb) the relevant authority is satisfied that the overpayment did not occur as a result of any change of dwelling occupied by the claimant as his home;
(c) it appears to the relevant authority that, on the assumption that there has been an overpayment—

(i) there are grounds for instituting proceedings against any person for an offence under section 111A or 112(1) of the Administration Act3 (dishonest or false representations for obtaining benefit); or
(ii) there has been a deliberate failure to report a relevant change of circumstances contrary to the requirement of regulation 88 (duty to notify a change of circumstances) and the overpayment occurred as a result of that deliberate failure; and

(d) the relevant authority is satisfied that the landlord—
(i) has not colluded with the claimant so as to cause the overpayment;
(ii) has not acted, or neglected to act, in such a way so as to contribute to the period, or the amount, of the overpayment.
It does seem there is an issue with benefits being recovered from landlords as 'easy targets' but again this relates to a specific set of circumstances - and while I wouldn't necessarily expect landlords to be fully up to date with all the ins and outs of the benefits system, to be honest I think it's reasonable for landlords to be alert to the need to get up to date legal advice on various landlord-related things from time to time before there is an issue, rather than just winging it and then having to firefight through costly litigation. Obviously that doesn't often happen but I've got limited sympathy with that tbh.
What should be happening is a socialised housing: the cost of housing poor people is subsidised by the fair taxes raised appropriately across the whole population. Instead the state dodges some of this responsibilty by pushing some of the costs onto landlords, which is unfair as some are wealthy with a large number of properties, but many are just ordinary citizens with one or two (and even people who need to move for some reason and cannot sell - e.g. negative equity, temporary job location - who are themselves tenants elsewhere).
Definitely don't disagree that there should be more social housing. Although social landlords evict people in rent arrears on a pretty frequent basis too, in part I believe because these 'debts' affect their ability to raise funds, which is a structural issue that needs to be addressed.

So essentially...while I don't disagree with you that there is a risk to landlords, 1) there is always a risk in relying on someone to pay you money on a regular basis, 2) that risk can be mitigated both before and during the course of a tenancy, 3) if a landlord (or letting agent) wants to argue that the risk in relation to benefit claimants is so high that it justifies a blanket ban on every single one of them, then let them do it, because none of them have so far and this issue has been rumbling on for quite some time now.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Millennie Al » Fri Jul 17, 2020 1:02 am

It pains me to say this but a lot of benefit issues are, at least initially, down to claimant error
Yes, but one of the purposes of benefits is to protect the least capable in society. Those who are clever, diligent, methodical, and well-connected are unlikely to need benefits. The ones most in need are those who are stupid, careless, disorganised, and without friends or relations willing and able to help. Benefits are supposed to be a safety net to catch them, so it's pretty useless to have a system which fails in the face of the very circumstances it is most needed.


On reclaiming from a landlord, what you cite is consistent with my vague idea that I thought it had been abolished. From 1992 (possibly even earlier) recovery was possible, but from 2006 (at least) collusion or contribution was necessary. From what I remember hearing, I think there was a period in between where reclaiming from a landlord was a significant risk.

And while I think the "No DSS" rule might be reasonably rational, that doesn't mean I think it should be legal. Lots of things are regulated which are perfectly rational acts done in someone's self-interest.

The usefulness of the rule should also be declining as society is moving towards collecting ever increasing data about people. In the 90's the effort to investigate the quality of a prospective tenant might have been significantly higher than today. But anyway, it should only be a useful rule of thumb to be used as a starting point. Any landlord who wouldn't rent to a tenant who had excellent references, had always paid rent on time and had a professional guarantor - which is how the tenant in this case was described - was surely a fool as tenants as good as that are about as good as you can hope for.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by discovolante » Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:39 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 1:02 am
It pains me to say this but a lot of benefit issues are, at least initially, down to claimant error
Yes, but one of the purposes of benefits is to protect the least capable in society. Those who are clever, diligent, methodical, and well-connected are unlikely to need benefits. The ones most in need are those who are stupid, careless, disorganised, and without friends or relations willing and able to help. Benefits are supposed to be a safety net to catch them, so it's pretty useless to have a system which fails in the face of the very circumstances it is most needed.
Well aside from the fact that I totally disagree with your depiction of people who claim benefits, if we translate it into something that isn't a massively prejudiced character assassination of people who have little money or connections then yes, that's why I followed that sentence up with:
The problem is that relatively small errors have a snowballing effect that is disproportionate.
No argument from me that the benefits system isn't fit for purpose, for all sorts of reasons.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by discovolante » Fri Jul 17, 2020 10:15 am

Actually I want to qualify what I said in my original post - when I was writing that I was thinking about benefits like HB where, apart from problems around things like proving occupation and that you are actually liable to pay rent and so on, the main condition you'd need to prove would be your income. I wasn't thinking about the ridiculous levels of conditionality attached to e.g. sickness and disability benefits, requirements to jobseek etc - where obviously the DWP f.cks up on a pretty consistent basis. Bit of a massive oversight there, sorry...
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Millennie Al » Sun Jul 19, 2020 1:59 am

discovolante wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:39 am
Millennie Al wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 1:02 am
but one of the purposes of benefits is to protect the least capable in society. Those who are clever, diligent, methodical, and well-connected are unlikely to need benefits. The ones most in need are those who are stupid, careless, disorganised, and without friends or relations willing and able to help. Benefits are supposed to be a safety net to catch them, so it's pretty useless to have a system which fails in the face of the very circumstances it is most needed.
Well aside from the fact that I totally disagree with your depiction of people who claim benefits,
Perhaps I wasn't sufficiently clear. That was not intended to characterise those who claim benefits. Imagine instead that I was commenting on something health related, saying that the NHS must be able to cope with people who have Ebola. That does not mean that you will find many patients with Ebola. In fact, it's highly unlikely that you'll find any at on a random inspection.
An NHS which refused to treat anyone unless they walked in by themselves would be pretty useless, even though it would treat many ailments successfully. Similarly a benefits system which requires a bunch of paperwork, has excessive delay in making payments, and cannot cope with casual work.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Stephanie » Mon Jul 20, 2020 8:01 pm

just a friendly reminder that people on this forum claim benefits, so do take care with your comments
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by lpm » Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:21 pm

? There's nothing controversial in saying the benefits system is an utter nightmare of a labyrinth - probably intentionally designed to defeat valid claimants.

I've tried to arrange the correct benefits for someone with discopia (inability to cope, as described by Millennie) and I failed. It needs more patience, experience and persistence than I possess.

It is indeed highly likely anyone stupid, careless, disorganised, and without friends or relations willing and able to help will be unable to cope with the benefits system. I hope nobody here is confused enough to think this means all people on benefits are stupid, careless and disorganised.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:27 pm

lpm wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:21 pm
I hope nobody here is confused enough to think this means all people on benefits are stupid, careless and disorganised.
Not all, but this:
Millennie Al wrote:
Sun Jul 19, 2020 1:59 am
Those who are clever, diligent, methodical, and well-connected are unlikely to need benefits.
does seem to suggest that most of them are, which I'm not at all convinced is the case.

I'm happy to accept it wasn't what Millennie Al really meant, but it's not the best phrasing.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Stephanie » Mon Jul 20, 2020 11:03 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:27 pm
lpm wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:21 pm
I hope nobody here is confused enough to think this means all people on benefits are stupid, careless and disorganised.
Not all, but this:
Millennie Al wrote:
Sun Jul 19, 2020 1:59 am
Those who are clever, diligent, methodical, and well-connected are unlikely to need benefits.
does seem to suggest that most of them are, which I'm not at all convinced is the case.

I'm happy to accept it wasn't what Millennie Al really meant, but it's not the best phrasing.
Yeah, that's what I was surprised by
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by lpm » Mon Jul 20, 2020 11:24 pm

It's not a controversial thing to say.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Jul 21, 2020 3:18 am

Maybe it should be though.

I mean, it's wrong and it perpetuates unhelpful stereotypes.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by discovolante » Tue Jul 21, 2020 6:12 am

Why does a discussion involving benefits (in this case the broader impact and legal implications of claiming benefits) have to become a discussion about whether people who claim benefits are stupid and disorganized? Is that really the best we've got? For crying out loud.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Stephanie » Tue Jul 21, 2020 7:52 am

discovolante wrote:
Tue Jul 21, 2020 6:12 am
Why does a discussion involving benefits (in this case the broader impact and legal implications of claiming benefits) have to become a discussion about whether people who claim benefits are stupid and disorganized? Is that really the best we've got? For crying out loud.
Yeah, I'm not entirely happy* about it.

*f.cking fuming, to be exact. Nice thing to log back in and read.
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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by Brightonian » Tue Jul 21, 2020 9:19 am

Ads on SpareRoom and the like (Housing Benefits = No, Max Age = 45 etc.), they're illegal now, so I can just ring the police who will swoop down and these evil landlords will go straight into the slammer.

Or maybe it's a bit more complicated than that. Would individual prospective tenants have to prosecute individual landlords, or could SpareRoom be prosecuted (who by? Government? Councils? Individuals?)?

On a personal note, I've been using SpareRoom and similar for some years, and I move around quite a lot. I've often come up against "Max Age = 45" etc. (I'm in my early 60s). I have simply assumed such ads were legal somehow, perhaps because the landlords are just advertising privately (but then there aren't ads like "English family only").

And further on my personal note, I'm also a landlord. When I first put my house up with a letting agent, they gave me a form with checkboxes for my preferred tenant type. I think it said "Students" and I ticked the "No" box. I'm quite sure it didn't say "Blacks". Also, it had "Housing Benefit", and I ticked "No". I do remember feeling a little uncomfortable doing that, but wasn't really sure of the implications, recalling something from the back of my mind about payment difficulties).

I stopped using the letting agent a few years ago, and got a neighour of the house to manage the letting for me. I speculated whether I should start allowing housing benefit tenants, and the neighbour very vehemently advised against HB. He didn't actually spell out why he was against, but it made me feel better about my initial refusal so I went along with that again. I had however told him in my initial pitch about managing lettings that "you can choose your neighbours".

In his assessment of a prospective tenant, my neighbour said she was "from Jamaica". Of course, I said I didn't want her as a tenant. I say "of course" because the rent was half her income, plus she was a lone parent who wanted to send her daughter to a well known private school. The fees for the school were higher than her income! I suspected my neighbour was really asking me whether blacks were allowed, so I replied that the tenant could have been suitable if she hadn't raised the fantasy of the private school.

Oh and a final personal note: when I was in my early 20s when I was looking to rent somewhere, a lot of ads said "professionals only". I assumed for some time this mean people in the professions. It took me some time to realise that lawyers, accountants, surgeons etc. wouldn't be wanting to rent a cheap bedsit in a run-down area of Croydon.

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Re: 'No DSS' unlawful

Post by discovolante » Tue Jul 21, 2020 9:24 am

Brightonian wrote:
Tue Jul 21, 2020 9:19 am
Ads on SpareRoom and the like (Housing Benefits = No, Max Age = 45 etc.), they're illegal now, so I can just ring the police who will swoop down and these evil landlords will go straight into the slammer.

Or maybe it's a bit more complicated than that. Would individual prospective tenants have to prosecute individual landlords, or could SpareRoom be prosecuted (who by? Government? Councils? Individuals?)?

On a personal note, I've been using SpareRoom and similar for some years, and I move around quite a lot. I've often come up against "Max Age = 45" etc. (I'm in my early 60s). I have simply assumed such ads were legal somehow, perhaps because the landlords are just advertising privately (but then there aren't ads like "English family only").

And further on my personal note, I'm also a landlord. When I first put my house up with a letting agent, they gave me a form with checkboxes for my preferred tenant type. I think it said "Students" and I ticked the "No" box. I'm quite sure it didn't say "Blacks". Also, it had "Housing Benefit", and I ticked "No". I do remember feeling a little uncomfortable doing that, but wasn't really sure of the implications, recalling something from the back of my mind about payment difficulties).

I stopped using the letting agent a few years ago, and got a neighour of the house to manage the letting for me. I speculated whether I should start allowing housing benefit tenants, and the neighbour very vehemently advised against HB. He didn't actually spell out why he was against, but it made me feel better about my initial refusal so I went along with that again. I had however told him in my initial pitch about managing lettings that "you can choose your neighbours".

In his assessment of a prospective tenant, my neighbour said she was "from Jamaica". Of course, I said I didn't want her as a tenant. I say "of course" because the rent was half her income, plus she was a lone parent who wanted to send her daughter to a well known private school. The fees for the school were higher than her income! I suspected my neighbour was really asking me whether blacks were allowed, so I replied that the tenant could have been suitable if she hadn't raised the fantasy of the private school.

Oh and a final personal note: when I was in my early 20s when I was looking to rent somewhere, a lot of ads said "professionals only". I assumed for some time this mean people in the professions. It took me some time to realise that lawyers, accountants, surgeons etc. wouldn't be wanting to rent a cheap bedsit in a run-down area of Croydon.
Just briefly, it wouldn't be a prosecution - it's not a criminal offence (hence 'unlawful' not 'illegal').

Not to ignore the rest of your post which is very interesting!
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