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Zoopla to ban benefits restrictions in rental adverts

Property advertising platform Zoopla is set to change its terms and conditions to prohibit renting restrictions for tenants in receipt of benefits.

The move follows calls by the government and charities for lenders, insurers, property agents and ad sites to review their approach to ‘no DSS’ discrimination.

A campaign to lift such restrictions began last year when one landlord claimed NatWest threatened to revoke her buy-to-let mortgage when the bank discovered she was renting to a benefits claimant.

Helena McAleer, a landlord from Northern Ireland, contacted the bank to discuss releasing equity from her property – but instead Ms McAleer claimed the lender revoked her mortgage citing its policy prevented rentals to benefits claimants.

At the time NatWest’s buy-to-let eligibility criteria read: “We will not consider multiple tenancies, Homes of Multiple Occupancy, bedsits, DSS tenants or ‘Related Person’ tenancies.”

The campaign gained widespread support, with the Residential Landlords Association calling on the government to use its influence as a shareholder in certain banks to end the “discriminatory” practices.

In 2017 research by the RLA found 66 per cent of lenders representing 90 per cent of the buy-to-let market did not allow properties to be rented to tenants in receipt of housing benefit.

At the beginning of this month NatWest lifted all restrictions on its buy-to-let customers renting to tenants in receipt of housing benefits.

Zoopla has now followed suit, announcing it will launch additional measures over coming weeks in support of “further minimising blanket restrictions” which apply to renters who receive housing benefit.

Due for implementation in April, Zoopla will amend its member terms and conditions to “specifically prohibit” the inclusion of “no DSS” restrictions on its site, remove “no DSS” references from listings uploaded on its site and remove the “no DSS” field in its cloud-based software products.

Charlie Bryant, managing director of Zoopla, said: “We fully support the recommendations of the National Landlords Association and the Residential Landlords Association, 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 who are looking to rent a property deserve the chance to be fully assessed for their suitability and matched to a home that suits both their and the landlord’s circumstances.

“We proactively sought the views of our largest lettings-focused agents to ensure the above measures were undertaken on a collaborative basis and received significant support in respect of our proposed additional measures.”

Natwest and Co-op banks, Kensington Mortgages, Nationwide Building Society have been invited to give evidence on their policies in relation to tenants in receipt of benefits – the date was originally set for March 20, but this has now been postponed.

By Rachel Addison

Source: FT Adviser