COUNTY DURHAM RENTERS on housing benefit might not be welcome in over 90% of flats and houses, website listings show.

This is despite and earlier court ruling that made it unlawful for landlords to blanket ban people on benefits, as it went against the 2010 Equality Act.

Popular property website, currently displays a ‘tenant preferences list’, giving the landlord the option of renting to those on housing benefits- these properties can be found by clicking the ‘housing benefits considered’ filter.

How many County Durham properties can you rent on benefits?

At the moment in County Durham, there are 165 rooms available to rent on Spare Room- but out of those, only 14 are being offered to those who claim benefits.

Spare Room say the filter exists for practical reasons and is a way to ensure people on benefits don’t waste their time with landlords who will turn them away after applying.  

A spokesperson for Spare Room said the court case ruling benefits discrimination as unlawful is “incredibly welcome”, especially during these uncertain times when “we’re likely to see more and more people needing some form of benefit to pay their rent”.

They added: “The ‘housing benefit considered' filter was introduced to help people who rely on housing benefit to find available properties.

“We realised that many rooms were listed as unavailable to people on benefits, so wanted to stop them wasting time contacting people, only to find out they couldn’t rent the room.

They added: “Some Buy to Let mortgages do still prohibit landlords from renting to people who receive housing benefit, so we’re changing the advertising process so that a specific mortgage clause is the only reason we’ll allow for saying they won’t rent to tenants on benefits.

“We’ll make it clear on the ads which these are so tenants can filter them out if needed.”

Since writing this article, Spare Room have now changed their 'housing benefits considered' filter to 'hide ads that can't accept housing benefit (due to mortgage/insurance restrictions)'.

The historic 'No DSS' court hearing


Earlier this year, housing benefit discrimination was judged to be unlawful and in breach of the Equality Act.

District Judge, Victoria Elizabeth Mark, declared in the court that: “Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability, contrary to […] the Equality Act 2010.”

Housing charity, Shelter, are part of the reason the historic court case on housing benefit discrimination was passed.

They have been campaigning for this issue for years and one of their clients was even used as a case study in court.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “No DSS discrimination overwhelmingly bars women and disabled people – who are more likely to need help paying their rent – from finding a safe place to live.

“In the worst cases, ‘No DSS’ policies have left people homeless.

“That means there should be no need for ‘DSS accepted’ filters, because private rentals should be advertised as available to any prospective tenant who can afford to live in them, regardless of where their income comes from.”

Renting in the coronavirus pandemic

Billy Harding, Research and Policy Officer at Centrepoint (charity for young homeless people) said the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbate rental issues for people in the UK.

He said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a 50% increase in the number of young people contacting our helpline seeking housing support.

“We think it will only get worse as the economic repercussions increases.

“The no DSS measures are discriminatory and they block people from accessing accommodation for no reason other than how their rent is paid- the court ruling is definitely a step in the right direction.”

No DSS barriers could make an already difficult renting situation seem impossible for those on benefits during this uncertain time

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, the number of people in work fell by 220,000 during lockdown and those claiming unemployment benefits surged to 2.7 million between March and July.

Furlough schemes currently end on October 31st the ban on tenant evictions will be lifted on 20th September.

Generation Rent is an organisation which campaigns for the rights of renters; they are currently raising awareness and protecting renters during the pandemic.

Dan Wilson Craw,  Deputy Director of Generation Rent, said: “A landlord should make their decision to let a property on the basis of the tenant’s ability to pay, not whether some of their income is from benefits.

“Rental listings sites should not be helping landlords to discriminate.

“Tenants who can’t find a landlord who will let to them could find help from their local council, which has a duty to prevent homelessness.”

If you are having issues with rental discrimination you can contact Shelter England- they can give you some advice about what to do next.

There is even a template letter on Shelter’s website which you can send to landlords and agents, alongside lots of free and expert housing advice at

If you are a young person struggling with homelessness, you can contact the Centrepoint helpline.