20:21, March 03 392 0 theguardian.com

2018-03-03 20:21:03
Taking ‘no DSS’ landlords to court was a real social service

After paying her rent in full and on time in the same place for 11 years, Rosie Keogh found herself unable to rent a new property in Birmingham when a lettings agent discovered she was receiving housing benefit and rejected her application. Keogh, a cleaner, former legal worker and modern-day hero, took the agency to court and won an out-of-court settlement of £2,000, after arguing that the ban on benefits indirectly discriminated against women, who are more likely to be claimants as they are more likely to be caring for children.

I have relatively few responsibilities, a decent enough income, no dependents, and my experience of the private rental market over 15 years has been around 20% fine, 10% good and 70% hellish. I can only imagine the added complication of facing the cruel and now potentially discriminatory “no DSS” rule. According to Shelter, almost half of all private landlords have an outright ban on letting to people on benefits.

I moved again recently, and from my own search for a new place, noticed that “no DSS” popped up most often on private, non-agency ads. Ironically, going through those private ads is one of the only ways of grasping at some relief from astronomical estate agency fees, which, despite government promises to ban them, are hanging around like a persistent patch of damp, and will continue to do so until at least 2019. In some respects, seeing “no DSS” did have its uses, in that it marked out which landlords to avoid, and it joined “shared bathroom”, “shower in kitchen” and “door broken from recent burglary” on our list of things that meant it probably wasn’t going to be our dream home.

When Keogh took her case to court, she was insisting that people looking for homes be treated as such, not as potential risks to profit margins. As I said, she’s a modern-day hero.

Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist

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