Members of the ACORN union campaign to end DSS discrimination

Housing is an important social determinant of health, affecting the quality, and even the length, of our lives. Housing issues often lead to people feeling powerless and isolated. Costs and eviction fears have an impact on people’s health and wellbeing, as well as prevent people from raising issues and speaking out.

There is significant inequality in housing across the country, but this month an important court ruling has challenged a harmful but commonplace practice in the housing market. On the 1st July, York County Court ruled that landlords can no longer discriminate against tenants with posting “no DSS” on housing adverts and requests. This is the first time a ‘No DSS’ discrimination case has been heard by a UK court, and has been called a ‘momentous’ ruling by Shelter, the housing charity that led the campaign.

This now means that it will be illegal for private landlords to discriminate against tenants who pay their rent using housing benefit and landlords and letting agents could face legal action if they barred housing benefit tenants from renting.

The Trust funds, and has previously funded, several projects with The Association of Community Organisations for Reform Now (ACORN), including in the South East and North East and Cumbria. ACORN is a member led national community organisation along the lines of a trade union; organising communities and fighting for a better quality of life, with a focus on housing.

ACORN has campaigned against such discriminatory bans for a number of years, with multiple successful campaigns pushing mortgage lenders to stop using terms that prevented buy-to-let landlords from renting to benefits claimants.

Tom Scott, Fundraising and Development Officer for ACORN said,

"ACORN welcomes the recent news that ‘No DSS’ tenancy bans have been ruled unlawful and applauds the organised tenants that have campaigned against these discriminatory policies. As a community union, many of our members have been kept out of homes for no other reason than for claiming housing or other benefits.

Along with other unions and housing organisations, ACORN has campaigned against ‘No DSS’ over the years. Something we often heard from landlords and letting agents was that the buy-to-let mortgage policies of some banks tied their hands, not allowing them to let to people who claimed benefits. So we set out to change this with our ‘Yes DSS’ campaign. Through member-led collective action and protests, we forced TSB to drop these clauses and then, with coalition partners Living Rent and the London Renters Union, persuaded the RBS group (including NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulsterbank) to do the same. No small victory for the many renters and people claiming benefits in this country!”

This is an important step towards reducing the structural barriers that continue and exacerbate health inequalities. Safe, secure and comfortable housing is a foundation to good health, and this is a significant move towards creating fairer places in which to grow, live, work and age.

ACORN is funded as part of the Trust's Active Communities programme, with money raised through The Health Lottery South East and The Health Lottery North East and Cumbria

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