The Claimant was represented by Tessa Buchanan of the Garden Court Housing Team, who was instructed by Shelter.
On 8 September 2020, the first contested trial in a case challenging the legality of a “No DSS” policy took place at Birmingham County Court.
“No DSS” policies are blanket bans imposed by landlords and letting agents against people in receipt of Housing Benefit. Such policies, which have been widespread in the private rental sector for many years, exclude people from properties which are suitable and affordable for them simply because they receive benefits.
In recent years Tessa Buchanan, instructed by Shelter, has acted in a number of cases challenging No DSS bans on the grounds that they are unlawfully discriminatory against women and disabled people, who are more likely to be reliant on Housing Benefit.
The first one to come to trial was the case of Stephen Tyler, who sued Paul Carr Estate Agents for refusing to accept his application for three properties on the grounds that he was in receipt of Housing Benefit. Mr Tyler is a disabled father-of-four who at the time was homeless and sleeping in a car. Paul Carr Estate Agents denied the allegation.
The trial took place in front of Her Honour Judge Stacey. After hearing evidence from the parties, the judge found that the agent had had a blanket policy of not accepting anyone on Housing Benefit for the three properties that Mr Tyler was interested in and that this amounted to unlawful indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. In addition to making a declaration to this effect, the judge awarded Mr Tyler £6,000 in damages (plus interest).
HHJ Stacey then went on to award Mr Tyler his costs on an indemnity basis. The agent had accused Mr Tyler of lying and had “dragged” all his witnesses to court in pursuit of a “hopeless” defence.