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10% of rental properties could be advertised unlawfully

One in 10 rental properties in England are likely to be advertised unlawfully by explicitly discriminating against people who rely on housing benefit, according to new research.

The research by the National Housing Federation and Shelter shows 8,710 from a total of 86,000 adverts on the website Zoopla say ‘no DSS’ or ‘no housing benefit’.

The research also warns that such explicitly discriminatory adverts are only the tip of the iceberg.

According to the two organisations, many other adverts imply that DSS is not accepted by saying ‘professionals only’.

Previous research from Shelter and the National Housing Federation revealed how many housing benefit tenants are rejected by letting agents over the phone, regardless of whether they can afford the rent or not.

Zoopla are not the only online property platform to facilitate this potentially unlawful practice.

Previous research has found numerous discriminatory adverts across all major property platforms including RightMove, SpareRoom.com and OpenRent.

The research also uncovers the wider discrimination faced by housing benefit tenants online.

In an undercover investigation, two versions of an almost identical application to landlords on SpareRoom.com and Gumtree. Shockingly, a woman posing as someone on housing benefit was more than twice as likely to be rejected by landlords, compared to a woman who wasn’t.

The National Housing Federation and Shelter have joined forces to urge letting agents and landlords to end this likely unlawful practice. They are also calling on online property websites to stop facilitating this grossly unfair discrimination.

‘This research shows that blatant discrimination against people on housing benefit is widespread,’ said National Housing Federation chief executive, Kate Henderson.

‘Landlords and letting agents are pushing people towards homelessness and could be breaking equality law. It is beyond me why property websites are permitting these adverts. They’re sending the message that they’re ok discriminating against someone, simply because they’re on benefits. This has to change.

‘Many housing associations were created in the 50s and 60s in reaction to discrimination and racism from private landlords who wouldn’t house migrants, and said “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.” Today’s discrimination is hardly any different and we refuse to turn a blind eye,’ added Ms Henderson.

In response, a spokesman for Zoopla said: ‘Zoopla supports the recommendations of the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residents Landlords Association (RLA), which have advocated that landlords do not impose blanket bans against tenants on benefits. Zoopla is aware of a small number of rental listings on its websites that fit into this category and Zoopla will write to all of its member agents to recommend that they follow the NLA and RLA guidance.’

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