Property platform Zoopla to ban 'no DSS' adverts from its website from next month  

One of the UK’s largest property listing sites says it is banning adverts that prohibit prospective tenants on housing benefit.

Zoopla, which lists around 927,000 homes in the UK, will ban ‘no DSS’ wording in rental adverts over the next few weeks. 

DSS refers to the now-defunct Department for Social Security, which was replaced by the Department for Work and Pensions in 2001.

Last November, analysis of 86,000 letting agent listings on Zoopla by the National Housing Federation and homeless charity Shelter found over 10 per cent contained the words ‘no DSS’ or ‘no housing benefit’.

The property platform will introduce certain steps in April, which include amending its terms and conditions to specifically prohibit the inclusion of such restrictions on the website. 

It will also remove the reference from listings uploaded to its website and from search fields in its cloud-based software products. 

Zoopla said the measures are in support of the National Landlords Association and Residential Landlords Association, who have both recommended the industry drops the practice. 

Last November, analysis of 86,000 letting agent listings on Zoopla by the National Housing Federation and homeless charity Shelter found over 10 per cent contained the words ‘no DSS’ or ‘no housing benefit’. 

Around 889,000 households receive housing benefit to help pay their rent, out of a total of 4.5 million households living in private rental accommodation.

At the start of March, Housing Minister Heather Wheeler announced plans to look at such adverts, warning that if the private rental sector was unwilling to take action then the government would ‘explore all options to remove this practice’.  

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, about half of landlords say they would not be willing to let a property to tenants on housing benefit.

Charlie Bryant, managing director of Zoopla, said: ‘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.’

Chris Town, vice chair of the RLA, welcomed Zoopla’s decision saying: ‘Landlords should not refuse someone solely because they are on benefits, and should consider prospective tenants on a case by case basis. 

But with growing numbers of benefit claimants now reliant on the private rented sector we need to do more to give tenants and landlords greater confidence in the benefits system.

Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: ‘It’s fantastic to see Zoopla leading the portal pack by scrapping ‘no DSS’ adverts from its website.

‘For far too long, perfectly good tenants have been barred from renting a home simply because they receive housing benefit – but changes like these show the tide is turning and DSS discrimination will not be tolerated.

‘If a leading name like Zoopla can play its part in treating customers fairly, on a case-by-case basis, then others can too.’

A spokesperson for rival website Rightmove said: ‘We know that currently there are restrictions placed on some landlords which means they are unable to let their property to someone receiving benefit, and where this is the case, the Competition and Markets Authority state that they should include this as information in their advertising. 

‘As part of our submission to the Work and Pensions Committee we’ve asked the government to provide clearer guidance to letting agents around this important issue. 

‘Once clearer guidance is issued from the government we will immediately communicate this new guidance to all of our letting agent customers.’