Birmingham County Court has ruled that it was unlawful for homeless father-of-four to be refused to view three private flats due to the estate agents’ ‘no DSS’ rules.
It found that Paul Carr Estate Agents’ ‘company policy’ of refusing to rent a property to Stephen Tyler, a recipient of housing benefits, was a breach of equality laws. Tyler has used a wheelchair since 2016 when a road accident left him with severe spinal injury. He was forced to give up his full time job as a delivery driver and, after asking his landlord to make his home disability-friendly, he was evicted and forced to sleep in his car. His case against the Birmingham estate agents who subsequently refused to rent to him despite his clean rental record was supported by housing and homelessness charity Shelter.
The court found the estate agents’ ‘no DSS’ policy to be unlawful due to it having a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities, with recipients of disability benefits being more likely to claim housing benefits too.
Judge Mary Stacey said there was ‘no doubt that there was a blanket policy that no one in receipt of housing benefit would be considered for the three properties’. ‘It put the claimant and other disabled people at a particular disadvantage when compared to others,’ she said. ‘To be told simply, because of his benefit status, that he could not apply for three properties which were perfectly located for his children’s school, his GP and health needs, and extended family support, […] would be distressing.’ The court made a declaration that the defendant had ‘unlawfully indirectly discriminated against the claimant by imposing a PCP [Provision, Criteria or Practice] that those in receipt of housing benefit could not apply to those three properties’.
Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate argued that ‘blanket bans against people on housing benefit are unlawful because they overwhelmingly bar women and disabled people like Stephen, who are more likely to need help with their rent, from finding a safe home.’ This is the second time that Shelter has successfully supported a ‘no DSS’ discrimination case in recent months.
While Paul Carr Estate Agents have expressed their disappointment in the verdict, claiming they are ‘merely the victims of Shelter’s desire to drive their own political agenda against letting agents in the private rental sector.’