A Landlord’s Guide To DSS
For many landlords, choosing the perfect tenant for their property is one of their foremost priorities. After all, a tenant that doesn’t fulfil or comply with the contractual expectations and responsibilities of their tenancy agreement can be a source of considerable frustration and trouble. It is for this reason that landlords and letting agencies will conduct extensive background checks prior to choosing a tenant.
Tenants that demonstrate that they have a stable income, solid references and are reliable and dependable are by far the most desirable. A DSS tenant, on the other hand, cannot necessarily demonstrate this easily because they receive benefits from the Government. Traditionally, DSS tenants have experienced more prejudice than private tenants, primarily because of the negative stereotypes surrounding the reasons for their circumstances.
Just because a tenant is on DSS, doesn’t mean you should avoid them. If you’ve been wondering what you should do if you receive an application for your property from a DSS tenant, then you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’re going to be explaining how this issue isn’t as black and white as it may seem at first glance, and what you can do to ensure that your select the perfect tenant for you whilst also protecting your financial interests.
What Is DSS?
DSS is an abbreviation for the Department of Social Security. Essentially, a DSS tenant is someone that is in receipt of housing benefits from their council. These housing benefits are offered to those who are experiencing financial difficulties, typically due to unemployment, injury, disability or their responsibilities as a single parent. Upon reviewing their circumstances and requirements, the Government then provides these individuals with a monthly allowance that covers their basic living expenses. Often, these living expenses also include contributions towards renting either council housing or private properties.
Unfortunately, DSS recipients are regularly subjected to prejudice and misconceptions, and this is especially apparent when they are searching for a property to rent. The negative connotations associated with the label DSS are widespread, and it definitely contributes to the difficulties DSS tenants face when it comes to the property market. Whilst there are some individuals on DSS who may not be reliable or dependable tenants, there are many who would be excellent tenants if given the opportunity.
For a landlord, entering into a tenancy agreement with a DSS tenant is quite similar to taking on a private tenant, with some small differences. Once the tenant has seen the property and decided that they want to proceed, the landlord will decide whether they are happy to continue with the application. If they are, they will then have to complete a Pre-Tenancy Determination form that is given to the tenant’s housing officer.
Once the council has reviewed and approved the application, a regular tenancy agreement will have to be signed. The tenant’s housing officer will then read the tenancy agreement, after which the payment method can be arranged. Since the council pays the rent, it will either be paid directly to the landlord or through the tenant to the landlord.
Landlord And Tenant Rights
Regardless of whether your tenant is DSS or not, their rights and responsibilities will be clearly outlined in the tenancy agreement that you provide them. As a landlord, you will be responsible for maintaining the property to a liveable condition, complying with health and safety standards and ensuring that you deal with your tenant fairly when it comes increasing the rent or ending the tenancy agreement.
A tenant’s rights means that they will also be protected when it comes to living in the property without being disturbed, having their deposit returned, challenging unexpected or high charges as well as signing a tenancy agreement that is fair and that complies with the law.
There are certain rights that you can expect as a landlord as well, and your tenant’s responsibilities towards you will include:
- Paying the rent that has been stipulated in the tenancy agreement, even if they are in a dispute with you.
- Ensuring that the property is taken care of and that it is protected from damage as much as possible.
- Taking responsibility for any additional charges as agreed upon with the landlord, such as council tax and utility bills.
- Subletting a property only if it is allowed in the tenancy agreement or if you have been asked for permission.
In the event that the tenant does not comply with or fulfil any of their responsibilities towards you, then you have the right to take legal action to evict them.
Within the rental market, DSS discrimination refers to the practice of excluding a particular demographic of tenants just because they are in receipt of benefits. Generally, it is regarded as unethical for a landlord or a letting agency to state that they won’t accept any DSS tenants within their advertisements. It is also discouraged to reject an application from a prospective tenant simply because they receive housing benefits from the government.
Despite this, it is still relatively common to see advertisements stating such on numerous property portals online, and DSS tenants continue to be routinely subjected to discrimination. The stigma associated with DSS tenants is a difficult one to erase, with several surveys finding that landlords were usually concerned that DSS tenants would fall behind on their payments or that they would engage in antisocial behaviours and damage the property and its furnishings.
Whilst it is natural to have such concerns, it isn’t necessarily fair to leverage them against DSS tenants. Individuals who are in receipt of these benefits are usually those who are most in need of housing, and the presumption that they are all the same can have negative consequences for those who have good references and a positive credit history. As long as the background checks are promising, then having a DSS tenant shouldn’t be any more problematic than a private tenant. What’s more, it could be a great opportunity to provide a genuinely hard-working and responsible tenant with a chance to live independently.
Residential Landlord Insurance
There are a several risks that are associated with being a residential landlord, and it is necessary that you adopt measures to eliminate or at least reduce the implications of these risks. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by protecting yourself with a residential landlord insurance policy.
As a property owner, you are responsible for the maintenance of your property. In the event of any accidents or damage such as vandalism, theft, fire damage, water damage or leaking pipes, an excellent residential landlord insurance policy should cover you for even the most adverse situations.
The responsibilities of a landlord also happen to be legal obligations, which is why with appropriate coverage you can ensure that you are always financially and personally protected.