Shelter Scotland briefing: 'No DSS'

By: Shelter Scotland
Published: October 2017

Briefing: No DSS

Shelter Scotland commissioned research undertaken by Beth Watts and Adam Stephenson (I SPHERE, Heriot-Watt University) into the prevalence of, and reasons behind, landlord attitudes to renters who receive Housing Benefit.

The research shows that there is strong evidence that ‘No DSS’ policies are a significant issue for many private renters in Scotland. Around one in five private renter households claim Housing Benefit and two thirds of private landlords would prefer not to let to tenants who claim Housing Benefit.

The willingness of landlords to let to tenants who claim Housing Benefit depends on a variety of factors including: where they rent out their properties, how many properties they rent out, what type of properties they rent out and whether they use a letting agent.

The reasons given for not accepting tenants who claim Housing Benefit

— problems with the level of Housing Benefit,
— problems with the administration of Housing Benefit
— policies used by mortgage lenders and insurers,
— the wider regulatory context in which landlords operate, and
— beliefs about claimants (a combination of stigma and past experiences),

There are a range of policy measures which could be introduced to improve things for renters who claim housing benefit including:

— reverse UK government welfare reforms which have reduced the level of Housing Benefit paid to private tenants,
— use the Scottish Government’s powers over benefits payments to improve access to the private rented sector,
— make sure the administration of Universal Credit and Housing Benefit is effective,
— Introduce a ban on blanket ‘no DSS’ policies,
— Introduce regulation and codes of practice to improve landlord and letting agent practice in letting to tenants who receive Housing Benefit,
— provide support and incentives to landlords to let to tenants who claim Housing Benefit,
— make sure sufficient support is available to private tenants who need it,
— support and scale up schemes which help vulnerable tenants access the private rented sector