A young autistic man has been repeatedly refused accommodation in Brighton because he’s on disability benefits, his mother says.
Paula Martin says her 23-year-old son, who did not wish to be named, has tried scores of letting agencies but has been told the same thing every time: landlords will not rent to people on benefits, disabled or otherwise.
The former student, who has Asperger syndrome and is on PIP (Personal Independence Payments) and housing benefit, is seeking a one-bedroom flat to live in the city.
But instead, his mother says, he has gone from college to homelessness.
“It used to be ‘no blacks, no Irish’ but now they say ‘no disabled people’” said Mrs Martin, “It is inhuman. It’s discriminatory and it’s just hurtful.”
Mrs Martin said she contacted more than 20 agencies in the city and they all said landlords would not be willing to rent to anyone on benefits for insurance purposes. This is despite her promise to be a guarantor.
“No landlord is willing to let to somebody on disability benefits. I think it should be illegal,” the mother said, “There’s no reason for this, no reason at all. It’s absolutely wrong for them to say no disabled people.
“He’s managed to get through college and get a foundation degree. The next step is homelessness.”
He was moved into emergency accommodation in Kemptown but found the situation distressing, particularly because of his condition.
“People were screaming in the night, it was just dire,” said Mrs Martin, “He had a room about twice the size of a single bed, with a kettle and microwave to cook.”
Unable to cope, he has since moved up to Sheffield with his grandfather, but this is only temporary. He is unable to move back in with his parents.
“Emergency accommodation doesn’t fix the problem,” his mother said, “This isn’t just my son this is happening to. It’s totally unnecessary.
“It’s incredibly stressful for me but he has to live in this situation.”
She said, “Is it going to be like this all his life, always worrying? The whole thing just fills me with fear and dread.
“We can’t go on like this, anyone who’s disabled or on benefits gets left behind.”
Shelter speaks out
Housing charity Shelter has spoken out about the case – saying the practise by landlords is “outrageously unfair” and likely unlawful.
Greg Beales, director of campaigns, said, “People are being kept homeless by ‘No DSS’ practices where landlords and letting agents are turning away perfectly good tenants simply because they receive housing benefit.
“Not only is ‘No DSS’ outrageously unfair, it also likely to be unlawful under the Equalities Act because it overwhelming impacts women and disabled people who are more likely to need help with their rent.
“Since we’ve shone a spotlight on this blatant prejudice, lots of leading names in the lettings industry have stopped discriminating which is positive – but there’s still a long way to go.
“Every letting agent and landlord must treat potential tenants on an impartial, case-by-case basis – otherwise they risk legal action being taken against them.”