COVID-19 has affected all of us in some way.  For many, it has led to huge financial hardship with a loss of income and a reliance on state hand-outs, food banks and housing benefit.  Thousands of renters now find they are facing discrimination when looking for a home. They are being refused even viewing properties, which under normal circumstances they could afford – simply because they receive housing benefit.   

Recently, Ms S called the office and enquired about a flat we had available. She explained how her landlord was selling her property and she was finding it almost impossible to get viewings from letting agents because of her situation.

Ms S is currently furloughed and will then be on maternity leave meaning she will need to receive housing benefit.  Feeling pressured for time and wanting to get settled by the time her baby arrives in November she was giving up hope, Every time she explained her situation to letting agents she was told that they would not accept benefits and would not offer her viewings. This example is a clear illustration that, despite benefit discrimination being unlawful and even in these unprecedented times, people are still being denied fair treatment.

Fortunately for Ms S, here at Harlows, we do not believe in discrimination on the basis of claiming housing benefit.  We were able to find her a suitable property and she is now looking forward to making a home with her baby. For Ms S, there was a happy ending, but for many others, they haven’t been so lucky. Ms S says…..

“Since finding out my landlord was selling her property and I’d have three months to find somewhere new for myself and my unborn baby, I have been left incredibly concerned (and understandably very stressed) at the amount of discrimination I faced from the majority of letting agents I approached locally, to the point where some would point blank refuse to even let me view their properties. This was always after I had explained my current and future situation, with regards to bringing up a baby and therefore not working and having to be in receipt of housing benefit.. 

Luckily I approached Harlows of Frome regarding a flat they had available. I was contacted by them that same day and told they had somewhere in mind that would suit me perfectly. I’m happy to say that I’m now living in this property and can finally relax and make a home for us both. 

Harlows honestly went out of their way to help me from the very beginning. They showed compassion for my situation and did everything they could to find me the perfect home. I count myself lucky that I found them just in time, as I have no doubt I would not have been so lucky with other letting agents. It makes me very concerned to think how many people are being discriminated against, despite it being unlawful and what this could potentially mean for a lot of people. 

Harlows have been amazing and I can’t thank them enough for helping me and my baby find a home.” 

For a long time, letting agents and landlords have been putting in place so-called ‘no DSS’, ‘no benefits’, and ‘no Universal Credit’ policies to prevent renters who receive housing benefit from accessing homes.   

However, from July 2020 a landmark court ruling declared housing benefit discrimination unlawful, marking a huge breakthrough in DSS Discrimination.  

Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful to indirectly discriminate based on things like gender, disability or race. ‘No DSS’, ‘no benefits’ or ‘no Universal Credit’ policies breach the act via indirect discrimination, as they disproportionately harm women and disabled people, who are more likely to receive housing benefit.   

Here at Harlows, we aim to treat everyone on an individual basis and will always take time to consider your needs. Please get in touch to discuss any of our properties or even to just register your details for future properties that may come on.