Rightmove is asking for clarity from the government about how the property portal should proceed with banning “No DSS” adverts from landlords and letting agents on its website.
The real estate site wants the government to explain how the ban would be affected by the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) guidelines around advertising.
Rightmove came under pressure last month from an online petition, which urged the firm to “clamp down on discrimination” against people on housing benefit, and which received nearly 80,000 signatures.
Asked if Rightmove was changing its policy due to the petition, a spokesperson told Mortgage Solutions: “Really it was to do with housing minister Heather Wheeler saying in the House of Commons last week that she wanted sites to remove these kind of ads. We’re trying to see how that is affected by the guidance from the CMA.
“We spoke to the CMA to check if their guidance should still be followed about material information that should be included in rental advertisements. They’ve confirmed that this guidance should still be followed.
“We’re still hoping to hear back from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government as they have declared that they want all sites to remove ‘No DSS’ type advertising.”
No blanket bans
The spokesperson added that Rightmove would be removing outdated language such as ‘No DSS’ (the Department for Social Security was replaced 18 years ago by the Department for Work and Pensions) and said the firm had contacted all of its letting agents about the customers last week.
In its letter to letting agents, Rightmove said: “The CMA guidance states that all ‘material information’ should be communicated to prospective tenants when marketing a property. They have confirmed that in its guidance for lettings professionals on consumer protection law ‘material information’ includes ‘any restrictions on the type of tenant, (such as housing benefit claimants)’.”
Rightmove told agents that they “should not impose blanket bans on tenants on housing benefit” but added that they recognised that this could be in conflict with the terms of some mortgages.
“If a landlord has a restriction that prevents them from letting to a person receiving benefits, the reason for the restriction should be included in the description of the listing,” it said.
“This could be by using a phrase such as ‘Unfortunately no housing benefit claimants can be considered due to a restriction in the landlord’s mortgage term.’”
The focus on tenants in receipt of benefits comes after the case of Helena McAleer which was revealed exclusively by Mortgage Solutions. She was being forced to evict a vulnerable tenant or to remortgage elsewhere by lender NatWest.
Following protests and a high profile campaign, some mortgage lenders, including NatWest, Nationwide and the Cooperative Bank, have announced changes to their policies and no longer restrict landlords in their mortgage terms.