The Department for Social Services was responsible for processing benefits claims until it was abolished in 2001. However, even now whenever tenants on benefits are being referred to by landlords, they often refer to the term DSS to classify tenants (current or prospective) who are on benefits. Through this article, we will mainly focus on learning whether Universal Credit is still classified under DSS; however, we will also explore other relevant areas such as why landlords avoid tenants on DSS, whether the DWP makes Universal Credit makes payments directly to landlords or tenants and whether tenants can avoid disclosing before their landlords that they are on benefits.

Is Universal Credit DSS?

Yes, Universal Credit is DSS; which stands for Department for Social Services that used to be responsible for providing benefits claims to individuals across the UK. Although the department was dissolved nearly two decades ago, the term DSS is still commonly used across the UK to classify private tenants who may be claiming benefits such as Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.

There are times when landlords are reluctant to rent out their properties to DSS tenants and end up mentioning this in their property advert. However, this is considered a discriminatory act which is not permissible by UK courts. If a prospective tenant finds any terminology in a property advert that discourages benefits claimants from applying, they can complain about the landlord to court as a DSS bias is considered to be an illegal act of discrimination. 

Due to the limited income of claimants and their dependency on benefits payments to manage their expenses, tenants claiming benefits are expected to find it difficult to make their rental payments on time. Despite their scepticism about this matter, landlords are advised against publishing terms such as “No DSS” in property advertisements to rent their property.

Some people are of the view that the term DSS is quite vague in its description as it does not take the following conditions into account:

  • There are different types of benefits (Child Tax Credit vs Housing Benefits) that are based on varied circumstances of claimants
  • There are different benefit systems (legacy benefits versus Universal Credit)
  • Some tenants rely completely on benefits for their household income while others have part-time or full-time jobs
  • Some tenants pass on their Housing Benefit to their landlord while the landlords of others are paid directly

Why Do Landlords Avoid Tenants On DSS?

One of the main reasons why landlords avoid tenants claiming benefits (or on DSS) is the fact that benefits claimants rely heavily on their payments from the state to pay for living expenses and housing costs. The amount of Universal Credit that tenants receive each month may change depending on the changed circumstances of claimants. This means that they may receive a different amount to cover your housing payments and will be required to pay the remaining amount if the payment falls short of the due amount of rent. In the absence of a stable income, tenants may fail to pay their rent on time; either in full or partially.

Another reason could be the fact that Universal Credit housing payments may not cover the full amount of a tenant’s rental payments and they will be required to pay the remaining amount to landlords. This again, makes timely and complete payments non-dependable for landlords especially if a tenant does not have a full-time source of income other than benefits.

Does Universal Credit Tell Your Landlord You Are On Benefits?

No, Universal Credit does not tell your private sector landlord that you are on benefits. However, if you live in a social housing facility, the Department for Work and Pensions and the officials at Universal Credit must inform social housing landlords when their tenants are on benefits.

Irrespective of this, Universal Credit can contact both the private sector and social housing landlords. The reason why Universal Credit may contact your landlord is that monthly payments covering housing costs are made directly to landlords for which their bank details are required. 

Can A Tenant Claim Housing Benefit Without Telling Their Landlord?

Yes, a tenant can claim Housing Benefit without telling their landlord. The main reason for this is the fact that like all benefits, Housing Benefit remains confidential between the state and the claimant. Therefore, both the claim itself as well as the amount being received by a tenant are matters of information that only a claimant can choose to disclose before third parties.

Housing Benefit, especially in the case of new tenants is directly paid to the claimant on the basis of the Local Housing Allowance of their council. In addition to this, the eligible amount of Housing Benefit claimed by a tenant can be slightly lower than the actual rent that they pay to their landlord as it may include a certain portion of non-rental payments; such as utilities. 

Will Universal Credit Pay Tenants For Housing Costs Instead Of Their Landlord?

Universal Credit can make housing payments directly to tenants instead of their landlord in case the tenant:

  • has not paid previously owed rent and currently has rent arrears
  • is repaying previous rent arrears
  • is repaying an overpayment 
  • currently has Social Fund or Discretionary Support debt
  • is residing in a hostel, refuge or residential care
  • shares the Universal Credit payment with another member of the household

Conclusion:

While the above discussion does make it quite clear that Universal Credit is still under DSS; however, landlords need to be careful about the usage of the term. It is illegal to discriminate against potential or current tenants on the basis of their benefits claim and not offer them property to rent due to this bias. It is also noteworthy for landlords that not all claimants are solely dependent on their benefits payments to meet housing costs, some also have part-time or full-time jobs. Therefore, one cannot simply assume that being a benefits claimant will make a tenant lag behind on their rental payments. 

FAQs: Is Universal Credit DSS?

Will my private landlord know if I claim Universal Credit?

No, unless you tell your private landlord, they will not know that you claim Universal Credit. There may be times when the DWP contact them with regards to payment confirmations or to confirm bank details as the housing element of your claim will be paid directly to them.

Do I have to tell my landlord that I am on benefits?

You only have to tell your landlord that you are on benefits in case they ask you directly. Otherwise, there is no obligation to do so especially if you don’t receive support for rental payments or you receive them directly.

Does Universal Credit check your tenancy?

While UC officials may not conduct formal surveillance, they may ask you to provide proof of your tenancy and rental payments with a tenancy agreement or receipts.

Why do landlords not accept Housing Benefit?

Some landlords may not accept tenants who are claiming benefits such as Housing Benefit. The reasons cited by some of them include delayed rental payments, high rent arrears and procedural delays for payments.

Does Universal Credit include Housing Benefit?

Universal Credit includes a housing element which is essentially the same as Housing Benefit. Universal Credit is now replacing six legacy benefits including Housing Benefit. If there is no change to your circumstances, you may be able to claim the same amount of Housing Benefit when you are transferred to Universal Credit.

References:

How to find landlords who accept benefits – Shelter England

What is DSS?

What does DSS mean and what is a DSS tenant?

Universal Credit and rented housing – frequently asked questions

Landlords with tenants claiming Universal Credit | nidirect.

Housing benefit for landlords | LBHF

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