Best Use of Law

Shelter  DSS discrimination against private renters 

@Shelter  #NoDSS 

The Campaign

‘DSS Discrimination is the practice by landlords or lettings agents of refusing to consider applicants for a tenancy, which is otherwise suitable and affordable, just because they are in receipt of state benefits. It’s a practice that’s meant to apply to all prospective renters in the same way but, as Shelter research discovered, it particularly disadvantages women, disabled people and some racialised minoritiebecause their income is more likely to include state benefits than others. 

In 2017, Shelter supported Rosie Keogh in her claim for indirect sex discrimination. She was a parttime working single mum who was refused a property after she disclosed that she was in receipt of housing benefitFollowing the case, some landlords removed blanket bans – but many did not. 

Shelter set up campaign to End DSS Discrimination. Its multi-disciplinary approach ensured legal work was fully integrated with its wider change efforts. 



The Change

Successes include: 

  • A joint investigation with the National Housing Federation, resulting in the two main property portals announcing support for the campaign and advising letting agents not to post ‘No DSS’ adverts on their websites
  • One case led to a bank conducting a full review of all their Buy-To-Let mortgage terms, eventually removing all DSS discriminatory clauses. Other lenders followed and now 99.9% of lenders are DSS Discrimination free. 
  • The British Insurance Brokers’ Association has confirmed that the majority of their members can arrange insurance for landlords renting to tenants claiming benefits at a reasonable cost. 
  • A Best Practice Guide for letting agents on how to avoid discrimination and what to advise their landlords customers.
  • The Competition and Markets Authority updated guidance to state that any landlord or agent who untruthfully claims to have a DSS restrictive mortgage is acting unlawfully. 
  • ThePrime Minister confirmed that the Government are working to tackle the problem and the Housing Minister stated that if the sector is unwilling to take action, the government will then explore all options to remove this practice’. 
  • A broad coalition of support from other charities and community groups, including Rethink Mental Illness, Renters Unions and faith groups. 


The Future

The campaign continues, and Shelter continues to improve its multi-disciplinary approach. 

Shelter lawyers say that the legal instinct is to tackle the immediate problem in front of you, but that it’s important to be driven by what the people you are representing actually need and want. 

So, Shelterhas prioritised learning before developing solutions to the systemic problems in the industry. They say, ‘this is a continually investigative exerciseevery time a problem arises we seek to learn first, then come up with a solution, then choose our target for change’. 

Shelter constantly reminds itself that it doesn’t care how the change happens, whether that’s through a legal case or insider influencing, it’s simply committed to ensuring that it does. 

Who else was involved?

The campaign has worked with people affected, renters rights groups, supporters, landlords, letting agents, lenders, politicians, insurers and the courts.