Finding Landlords That Accept DSS Tenants
Finding your perfect future home is by no means a walk in the park, with the sting of being turned away from numerous rental opportunities only adding to the frustration. Despite the historic reluctance of rental property owners to let to DSS tenants that receive financial support, recent times have seen unprecedented amounts of renters turn to these avenues in an attempt to sustain their income.
What Is a DSS Tenant?
A DSS tenant is someone who wishes to rent accommodation whilst meeting their obligation to pay the agreed rental payments through the financial support they receive from the government. This financial backing will most likely take the form of Universal credit or housing benefits, and help the tenant during times of fluctuating income or economic hardship in an effort to prevent the accumulation of rent arrears and the further deterioration of the tenant’s financial outlook. He specific “DSS” acronym has remained despite its namesake, the Department of Social Security being disbanded and replaced by the Department for Work and Pensions, more commonly referred to as the DWP in 2001.
Do Private Landlords Accept Universal Credit?
It is undeniable that there has been a historic reluctant from landlords to rent to DSS tenants, with advertisements for rental opportunities often coming alongside a notice stating “No DSS”, or “No Benefits”. Naturally these have been met with fierce opposition from tenants that are receiving finical support from the government and with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic only working to place a record number of households on universal credit, the out-dated and often stereotypes tropes that inform these blanket DSS tenant bans will become even less favourable.
With this being said, it could be argued that the intention of the landlord is to simply protect their investment and safeguard their own income, after all without any rent property owners are far more exposed to the costs associated with managing a property portfolio. Despite this as of 2020 landlords are prevented from maintaining this stance against letting to tenants that receive universal credit or housing benefits. These blanket bans enforced by landlords have been ruled as unlawful as rejecting an application from a prospective tenant exclusively because they are receiving financial support would be a violation of section 19 and 29 of the 2010 Equality act as the ban would be indirectly discriminating against renters based on their gender and potential disabilities.
The results of the Equality Act protect renters that receive this finical support, allowing them to have a much more transparent and fair renting process when trying to find their next home. With this in mind some landlords have cited that they will be unable to let out their rental property to tenants that receive support to meet their due rental payments as this would be a breach of the terms of either their buy to let mortgage, or their landlords insurance policy; this is no longer the case as these terms would not be upheld as they too would be deemed unlawful, regardless of when the policy was taken out by the landlord.
Do I Have to Tell My Landlord About DSS?
It is essential for tenants that are in receipt of financial support to note that if they make a claim for universal credit during an existing tenancy their landlord will not be notified. However, in the case that the rent payments must be made directly to the landlord, they will be contacted in order to obtain their payment information. If this is the case and an existing tenant is apprehensive about their landlord’s reaction they needn’t be, especially as the rent is being paid directly to the landlord, leaving their expected income undisturbed. It is also worth mentioning that whilst a prospective tenant only has to inform the owner of the rental property that they are receiving benefits if they ask, it is highly likely that they will do so and it is in your best interests to be forthcoming with your future landlord from the start. Additionally, discrepancies may be highlighted during the affordability checks in the reference process making it initially seem like you wouldn’t be able to meet the finical obligation of paying rent, to this end informing a landlord that they would receive the rental payments directly from universal credit will ease any apprehension they may have.
Finding a Property for DSS tenants
If you are a considered to be a DSS tenant and are struggling to find a new rental opportunity it is possible to turn to your local authority and request a list of private landlords that have been historically receptive of residents that receive similar support. Depending on the circumstance and taking your individual renting situation into account the local authority may also provide you with further payment to assist you in paying a holding or tenancy deposit, renting in advance or to meet your rental commitment.
Similar results can also be seen through contacting a dedicated online letting agent. These platforms specialise in connecting landlords and tenants for a clear and fair renting journey and will have likely amassed a sizable community of rental property owners that are happy to accommodate renters that are facing financial hardship. This important this to remember is that a rental agreement needs to work for both parties and most landlords are more than happy to negotiate the specific terms of a rental agreement in order to accommodate the “right tenant’s” needs and lifestyle.
Referencing and Credit Checks
Naturally if a rental property receives a high amount of interest from prospective renters they will have to assess which of the applicants would be an ideal fit for the rental opportunity they are offering. This is most commonly achieved through the referencing process and whilst this is by no means mandatory, it is ill advised that landlords neglect to conduct these assessments and tenants will be hard pressed to find a rental property owner that does not conduct referencing checks.
When going through the referencing process not only will the prospective tenant have their forms of identification verified and their right to rent assessed, but their financial compatibility with the property will also be evaluated. To this end when a tenant is going through the referencing process they will have their current employment status and income evaluated allowing the landlord to better understand if the tenant will be able to consistently make the agreed upon rental payments and does not stand to make their financial situation worse through the accumulation of rent arrears. Alongside this the tenant will also have their credit history inspected to see if they have historically cleared any lines of credit or previous debt they may have taken out, however if they have been issued with a county court judgement, declared bankruptcy or had other debt related issues, this will be highlighted and will seriously impede the tenant’s ability to find a rental property.
With perhaps the exception of students and first time renters, the referencing process also demands that a tenant produces a reference from their most recent landlord. This is intended to function similarly to a reference from a past employer and informs the owner of the rental property that you are a responsible tenant that they shouldn’t have any reservations about renting to; however they will be equally enthusiastic to warn of any terms to neglected to abide by, missed rental payments, antisocial behaviour or damaged furnishings.
Additional Landlord References
As can be expected, this may only be a viable option for those with an extensive rental history; offering to provide the owner of your future home multiple references from past landlords could be enough to give you the edge. With many online letting agents only a single reference is taken from the prospective tenant’s most recent landlord. Whilst this does of course give the new landlord somewhat of an idea as to what the tenant will be like during the fixed term, it certainly doesn’t offer a rich insight. Of course, if any relationships with past landlords have turned sour it’s safe to say you should not ask them for a character reference; but if you are able to demonstrate to your new landlord that you have historically met your obligation to pay rent, left every property in the same condition and respected the terms of the agreement you could very well become their first choice.
Paying Rent in Advance
As the entire property portfolio the landlords oversees will be dependent on a predictable and consistent income taken from rental payments, offering to pay these sums in advance would dispel any fears of accumulating rent arrears whilst showing the landlord your commitment to upholding the terms of the tenancy agreement. Of course this is mutually beneficial for both parties, offering the landlord increased financial security for the foreseeable future, whilst providing the tenant with accessible rental accommodation. For landlords that may be apprehensive about letting to a particular tenant, requesting that rent is upfront is no uncommon. Despite their being no threshold on the amount of rent a landlord can request in advance it is typically around three to six months’ worth of fees. With this being said, whilst this would of course make a prospective DSS tenant far more favourable, the increased initial financial commitment may be out of reach for some, especially when trying to already manage a thinning budget with universal credit support. It is also worth mentioning that in order for a request for rent to be paid in advance to be upheld he tenancy agreement must be in a written medium as a verbal agreement will not sufficiently prove any amounts have been paid to the landlord, nor the duration of the tenancy that this payment covered.
Finding a Guarantor
If the owner of the rental property is still proving to be reluctant to proceed with the tenancy finding a guarantor could be the solution. Typically if a landlord requests that the tenant finds a guarantor before moving into the rental property, friends and family members will be the first port of call as they will more than likely have an understanding of the tenant’s financial situation. Whilst having a guarantor is most commonly associated with students and missing rental payments, guarantors are actually liable for any debt the tenant accrues in regards to their tenancy. For this reason the guarantor could end up making payments for any damage to the rental property or its contents at the end of the fixed period if the cost of addressing such issues exceeds the amount taken from the tenant for the tenancy deposit.
As mentioned a guarantor would become liable for any missing rental payments that the tenant fails to make, whilst this would secure the income of the landlord and prevent the occupant of the property from accumulating an excessive amount of rent arrears, this would not alleviate the obligation to clear this debt for the tenant, who would still need to settle this amount with the guarantor. Whilst this may not always be the case because a guarantor usually takes the form of a close family member or friend, this should not be used as an excuse for tenants to neglect their duty to meet the agreed upon rental payments.
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