Anna Bibby, 18 March 2019
Zoopla has recently announced it will be introducing new measures to clamp down on what it calls ‘blanket restrictions’ imposed on tenants receiving benefits. Its plans have been backed by the National Landlords Association and the Residential Landlords Association.
The crackdown on property listings ruling out benefit claimants comes after the government announced that it would like to see an ‘immediate change’ in the policies of letting agents and landlords who advertise their properties as ‘no DSS’ to help those claiming benefits in the Private Rented Sector. Out of 4.5 million households living in private rented accommodation, it’s said that 889,000 are receiving housing benefits to help pay their rent.
Minister for family support, housing and child maintenance, Justin Tomlinson, said of the matter: “Everyone should have the same opportunity when it comes to looking for a home, regardless of whether they are in receipt of benefits. With universal credit, payments can be paid directly to the landlord, and we continue to listen to feedback and work with landlords to improve the system. This helps strengthen the choices and opportunities available for those on benefits to secure the homes they and their families need.”
However, it seems that the government will have a challenge to get landlords on board with these plans. Based on a recent survey from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, more than half of landlords say they wouldn’t be willing to take on a DSS tenant.
It is not just Zoopla taking measures to assist in the governments new plans; NatWest has lifted its restrictions on buy to let landlords letting to tenants receiving DSS, after its lending practices came under scrutiny.
As well as amending its terms and conditions, Zoopla has also prohibited the inclusion of ‘No DSS’ restrictions and their working on processes to remove such references from their listings and removing the ‘No DSS’ field in its cloud-based software products.
The company has also made its member agencies aware of the plans in November 2018 so that they could make the necessary changes.
In response to these new measures, Zoopla’s managing director, Charlie Bryant, said: “We fully support the recommendations of the NLA and the RLA, which oppose blanket bans against tenants in receipt of housing-related benefits, and are pleased to be taking action which clarifies this position. All tenants are looking to rent a property deserve the chance to be fully assessed for their suitability and matched to a home that meets both their and the landlord’s circumstances.”
“We proactively sought the views of our largest lettings-focused agents to ensure the above measures were taken on a collaborative basis and received significant support in respect of our proposed additional measures”.
The new measures from Zoopla are set to be launched over the coming weeks and its final implementation will take place in April.
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Anna Bibby, 18 March 2019