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  1. ITV Report

Letting agents accused of discriminating against housing benefit tenants

Letting agents are routinely discriminating against tenants on housing benefit, an investigation by a major homelessness charity has found.

Shelter and the National Housing Federation say benefits claimants are being turned away at branches of five top letting agents.

The undercover investigation of 149 regional letting agent branches found one in 10 had a policy not to let to anyone on housing benefit, regardless of whether they could afford the rent.

The report claims that a shortfall in social housing means that an estimated 1.64 million adults rely on housing benefit to help cover private rents.

As a result the two housing organisations are launching a legal challenge in a bid to stop discrimination against people on benefits who want to rent homes.

Over a million adults rely on housing benefits to help cover private rents. Credit: ITV News

Shelter says it wants to take a test case to court.

ITV News spoke to Stephen Tyler who is looking to rent a flat in Birmingham for him and his family, but believes he is being discriminated against by letting agents as he receives benefits.

Mr Tyler said: "They don't even give you a chance to get past that first stage, to the credit check. They could use the credit check as the excuse, but they don't even get that far. You just get 'no'."

While he waits for a roof over his head, Mr Tyler is forced to sleep in his car while his partner and young children live with his in laws.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: "This ugly undercurrent of discrimination is wreaking havoc on hundreds of thousands of people's lives. 'No DSS' is an outdated and outrageous example of blatant prejudice

The undercover investigation of 149 regional letting agent branches found one in 10 had a policy not to let to anyone on housing benefit. Credit: ITV News

.

"Rejecting all housing benefit tenants is morally bankrupt, and because these practices overwhelmingly impact women and disabled people, they could be unlawful. That's why we're urging all landlords and letting agents to get rid of housing benefit bans, and treat people fairly on a case by case basis."

David Cox, chief executive of letting agents' body Arla Propertymark, said: "Rents are paid in advance, whereas housing benefit is paid in arrears, and therefore with such a shortage of rental accommodation, landlords and agents will naturally choose a tenant who can pay the rent when it is due, rather than a tenant who is always a month in arrears.

"This situation does not exist because of landlords or letting agents, it is a systemic problem caused by government and the banks."