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Challenging no DSS benefit discrimination

No DSS means a landlord or letting agent will not rent to you because you get benefits. This is discrimination and it's unlawful.

Follow our steps to challenge benefit discrimination and show that you can afford to rent the property.

Checks that landlords or letting agents can make

Before renting to you, landlords or letting agents can check:

  • your identity

  • your credit rating

  • your income, through payslips or bank statements

  • a reference from a previous landlord

You should not fail any of these checks because you get benefits.

Examples of no DSS benefit discrimination

Blanket policies about no benefits

It’s benefit discrimination if an advert says:

  • no DSS

  • no housing benefit or universal credit

  • professionals only

It’s benefit discrimination if a letting agent tells you the landlord does not accept people getting benefits.

Unfair affordability checks

It’s benefit discrimination if you automatically fail affordability checks because you get benefits.

A landlord or letting agent must not use referencing companies that exclude people getting benefits. These companies cannot ignore income from benefits when doing checks.

Unfair terms of mortgage or insurance policies

Some landlords say they cannot rent to people getting benefits because of their mortgage terms or their landlord insurance.

It’s discrimination if the mortgage provider or insurance company enforces these terms. Many companies have dropped such terms because of this.

Ask for a copy of the policy so you can check.

No DSS policies are discrimination, as they're more likely to affect people with certain protected characteristics. Protected characteristics are things like disability, sex or race.

If you do not have a protected characteristic, it's still discrimination.

If you need more information, check our guidance on dealing with housing discrimination.

Getting evidence of discrimination

Keep copies of:

  • any adverts saying no DSS or no benefits

  • any letters or emails you get saying they do not rent to people getting benefits

  • any letters or emails that you send challenging no DSS

If someone says something discriminatory on the phone, follow it up. Write an email or letter asking them to confirm what they said.

If you send letters, send them by recorded delivery so you have proof of delivery.

You can use this evidence to make a complaint or take legal action.

If you think you’re experiencing benefit discrimination

Follow these steps to challenge no DSS discrimination. If they do not work, you can take legal action against a landlord or letting agent.

Step 1: check if you can afford the rent

Before contacting a landlord or letting agent, make sure you can afford the rent. Use this evidence to show them you can afford the property.

Check the Local Housing Allowance rate. This says how much you’ll get toward your rent if you get benefits.

Once you know how much you’ll get towards rent, check that you can afford to live there. Use Money Helper’s budget planner. You’ll need details of your income and spending, and the rent for the new property.

Step 2: request a viewing

Send the landlord or letting agent a letter asking for a viewing. Tell them you’re interested in renting the property.

Say that you can afford the rent. If they ask you to prove you this, you could provide any of the following:

  • bank statements showing you've made regular rent payments

  • details from the Money Helper budget planner

  • a reference from your current landlord, if you have one

  • a character reference from an employer, teacher, neighbour or family friend

Use our letter template to request a viewing

Step 3: if they refuse to let you view or rent the property

Write a complaint to the landlord or letting agent. Send them a letter or email saying:

  • how they are discriminating against you

  • that no DSS policies are unlawful

  • that you could take legal action if they do not reconsider

Say what you want them to do, such as:

  • let you view the property and consider you for a tenancy

  • tell you about any other properties they are advertising

  • consider you for other properties in future

Use our letter template to make a complaint

If you're complaining to a letting agent, check if they're following the letting agent code of practice. Rules 22, 42 and 51 are specifically about discrimination. If they are not following these rules, mention them in your complaint.

Step 4: if your complaint does not work

If you want to go further than making a complaint, you'll have to take legal action by going to court.

If you want to take legal action

Contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service. They're equality law and discrimination experts. They'll give you free advice on your options.

If you want to claim compensation in court, you’ll need legal advice to help you calculate it.

Get a solicitor to help you take court action. Find a solicitor on Law Society of Scotland. You may be eligible for free legal advice or legal aid to help with the costs of legal action.

If you're complaining about a letting agent

If you do not want to go to court, you can apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber). The tribunal can then decide if the letting agent has broken the letting agent code of practice.

If you want to claim compensation at the tribunal, get legal advice to help you calculate it.

Check our guidance on applying to the tribunal about a letting agent.

If you need more help finding a home

We have guidance on how to find a privately rented home.

If you need help paying a deposit, we have guidance on deposits and first month’s rent.

If you cannot find a private let, you could rent from the council or a housing association.

Last updated: 19 January 2023

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England