More than one in three private housing landlords in Wales may be breaking the law by discriminating against tenants receiving benefits, new research has found.
A survey by the housing charity Shelter Cymru found that 37% of landlords in Wales said they do not, or prefer not to, let to tenants on benefits.
The equivalent of more than 75,000 tenants across Wales have reported discrimination when trying to find their current home.
The charity is using the research to launch a campaign to inform landlords and tenants that discrimination against any tenant because of their age, gender, disability, benefits status or any other characteristic is unlawful.
Every landlord and letting agent in Wales signs up to the mandatory Rent Smart Wales Code of Practice. However, despite these protections, the charity says tenants are encountering open attempts to discriminate against them.
People who are entitled to some kind of benefit are a particular area of concern, with property listings stating ‘No DSS’ common across Facebook Marketplace and other online platforms.
Ruth Power, CEO of Shelter Cymru, said: “Our recent research shows that finding a good home is made even harder for some people due to discrimination.
“In the midst of a housing emergency, it’s hard enough for people across Wales to find a place to call to call home.
“But the situation is made worse for some people as properties are still being advertised as 'no DSS' or 'no benefits’.
“ Our research also highlights the devastating experience of people who are turned down from viewing or renting a home because of their gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity or disability. As well as being hurtful and offensive, we want to raise awareness that discrimination is against the law.
“Anybody who experiences discrimination in seeking a home, or sees discriminatory practice, can report this on Shelter Cymru’s website.
“We must work together to put an end to discrimination in housing. Home is everything - and without a good home, it is impossible for any of us to live healthy, happy and productive lives.”
Tenants in Wales can report cases of discrimination to Rent Smart Wales, with Shelter Cymru working with the organisation to set up a reporting portal online.
Shelter Cymru has also published a range of resources to help tenants to challenge discrimination and is calling on the public to pledge to support the campaign.
Greater protection for renters in Wales will be brought into law later this year in what has been described as "the biggest change to housing law in Wales for decades".
When the Renting Homes (Wales) Act is introduced on July 15, all contract-holders will be given 12 months of security at the start of their tenancy.
The Welsh Government said the Act will make it simpler and easier to rent a home in Wales, "replacing various, complex pieces of existing legislation and case law with one clear legal framework", giving contract-holders in Wales "greater security of tenure than in any other part of the UK.”
Ben Beadle, CEO of the National Residential Landlords Association said: “There is no place for illegal discrimination in the private rented sector. An individual’s race, gender, orientation, disability, or any other protected characteristic must never play a part in a landlord or letting agent’s decision about letting a property.
“Additionally, no landlord should apply a blanket exclusion to households because they are in receipt of benefits. Rather every application for a tenancy should be assessed according to its own merits.
“However, Shelter Cymru’s claims that 75,000 people have been subject to unlawful discrimination smacks of scaremongering and risks undermining the very serious issues facing the private rented sector in Wales.”