Number of private rented homes available to Hackney’s benefit claimants: 1

Members of the Hackney Renters consumer group protest outside Parliament over the Housing Bill

Members of the Hackney Renters consumer group protest outside Parliament over the Housing Bill - Credit: Archant

A tiny studio flat is the only property in the whole of Hackney available to private renters on housing benefit, campaigners claim.

Tenants’ pressure group Hackney Digs contacted 50 letting agents over the course of a two-month mystery shopper experiment to research the problems facing the borough’s 40,000-plus claimants – the most in London.

Out of those, 21 agents said they did not accept DSS tenants and 20 said they had no properties available for benefit claimants, and very rarely did, because landlords didn’t like it.

Amazingly, only one studio flat in the north of the borough was available to rent.

One of the group’s researchers claims to have been told by an agent their company only accepted people who worked full-time. When the mystery shopper said they did, but received benefits on top, they were still dismissed.

Campaigners will be protesting outside the town hall at 11am on Saturday, before heading to three letting agents who impose a blanket “no DSS” policy for a naming-and-shaming demonstration.

Digs’ Heather Kennedy said: “Where in the landlord rulebook does it say carers, disabled people, single parents or people on low incomes make bad tenants?

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“These are just some of the groups of people discriminated against when agents, landlords and mortgage lenders say ‘no DSS’.

“Where are all these people expected to live?

“With home ownership far beyond the reach of normal people and no access to social housing, the private rented sector is the only housing option more and more of us have.

“And yet people are being denied their last chance of finding a home because landlords and agents, with increasing power to discriminate, unfairly tarnish everyone claiming benefits as undesirable.”

According to government stats published in November, Hackney has 40,487 people claiming housing benefits, 8,926 of whom are renting privately.

Second highest is Lambeth, with 38,429 claimants – 7,053 private.

Government figures also show the number of working people claiming benefits to cover their rent has doubled in five years.

At the same time, rents in the capital have spiralled way above inflation, despite promises made by the coalition government they would encourage landlords to bring down rents.