Shelter and the National Housing Federation found one in 10 agents in England refused to let to those on benefit.
The covert investigation discovered the policy was implemented even if tenants could afford the rent.
Stephen Tyler told the BBC that housing benefit discrimination had forced him to sleep in his car.
The wheelchair user told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that they’d endeavoured to find accommodation since they were ousted from their last property when they asked for adaptions to be made for wheelchair access.
He said that he called anything up to 20 landlords, estate agents, a day and none of them would accept DSS, tenants on Department of Social Security housing benefits.
The Birmingham resident said he’d approached his council as well as housing associations, but no one wanted to help at all.
A spokesman for Mr Tyler’s local council, Birmingham City, stated it had offered him suitable alternative accommodation, and it added that while this was far from an ideal situation, and that it was no doubt distressing for Mr Tyler and his family, unfortunately, they were faced with a national housing crisis which was affecting an unprecedented number of families across the region.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said that this ugly undercurrent of discrimination was wreaking devastation on hundreds of thousands of people’s lives and that DSS was an obsolete and outrageous illustration of heinous discrimination.
The investigation into 149 regional letting agent branches discovered five of England’s leading letting agents were discriminating against tenants on housing benefit and Haart was the worst culprit.
Mystery shoppers, deployed by the charities, had encountered a prohibition on housing benefit tenants in eight out of 25 Haart branches and a spokesman for Haart said that it wasn’t their policy to prohibit housing benefit tenants and that anyone who passes referencing checks can rent properties listed with their branches.
They continued that they regularly arrange tenancies for those claiming housing benefits and presently have 112 tenancies where this is the case, but this research had brought to light that some of their branches had been misinformed and were working to ensure that this policy was being followed across their network and that they were sorry for any occasion where this had not been the case.
Others named as having individual branch guidelines not to accept people on housing benefit were Bridgfords (two out of 25 branches visited), Dexters (two out of 25), Fox & Sons (two out of 24) and Your Move (one out of 25).
The report said that nearly half of all branches contacted during the investigation said they had no suitable homes or landlords would not let to someone on housing benefit.
The report claims that a shortfall in social housing meant that an estimated 1.64 million adults depend on housing benefit to help cover private rents and it was said the preponderance were women, especially single mothers with childcare responsibilities, while people who received disability benefits were three times more likely to need a housing benefit top-up.
David Cox, chief executive of letting agents body Arla Propertymark said that rents are paid in advance, whereas housing benefit is paid in arrears, and thus with such a shortage of rental accommodation, landlords and agents will naturally pick a tenant who can pay the rent when it’s due, rather than a tenant who is always a month in arrears.
He said that they’ve called on the Government time and time again to fix this issue, but that their calls have fallen on deaf ears.
A Ministry of Housing spokesman said those on housing benefit who felt discriminated against could complain to redress schemes, which all letting and managing agents must be part of by law.
He added that they were determined to tackle stigma in social housing and the private rented sector and that they had published their Social Housing Green Paper setting out their strategies to rebalance the relationship between tenants and landlords.
Unfortunately, for the time being, disabled people and single mothers are still being discriminated against because of housing benefit discrimination and the Government and wider society do not care.
And the entire idea of letting agents is evil because they’re completely driven by money and can push rents up as much as possible because they get a percentage and this is making people homeless as the cost of renting gets higher and higher, and this is a more short-sighted governance – rents should be lowered then capped and capitalism sucks.
Margaret Thatcher came up with the concept of ‘Right To Buy’ and then Tony Blair became her poodle. And Right To Buy was fantastic for those who could afford it, but for others, it wasn’t such a good idea and it also the scheme meant they ceased building enough social housing.
The point is that council houses have not been built under any Government for many years – Conservative, Labour, whichever party you support, neither have bothered to think logically and now we have more people needing affordable rental properties and there’s not enough to go round, or they simply can’t afford them.
And what is going on is shameful and yet we call ourselves civilised, yet our Government are allowing this to happen and our Government are treating people like they’re not even human beings.