What is DSS?

DSS is an archaic and, some think, offensive way to refer to potential tenants who receive benefits from the government.

Some estate agents and private landlords do discriminate against DSS tenants.  But why? What does DSS stand for and what does “No DSS” on a spare room advert mean?

Why “DSS”?

The initials DSS refers to the defunct Department of Social Security. Since 2001, the government department in charge of benefits is the Department of Work and Pensions.


Who does it refer to?

DSS isn’t a legal term. It’s mainly used when landlords want to ward off interest in their property or spare room from benefit claimants.

So does DSS refer to anyone receiving benefits? Well, as we said, it isn’t exactly a technical term – the department it refers to hasn’t existed for fifteen years. That said, it principally refers to people who receive housing benefits from the government.

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A range of people, such as those considered vulnerable, from low-income groups or with young families, can receive housing benefits to help them pay their rents and it is usually this method of paying the rent that landlords do not want from their tenants.

However, DSS could also be taken to refer to other state benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or even Child Tax Credits. There’s no strict definition of the term – it just depends on who the landlord wants to exclude from his/her property.

Is It OK to Advertise “No DSS”?

Recently, some groups have questioned whether it is moral – or even legal – to bar people claiming benefits from your spare room, flat share or house for rent. Shelter and The Independent have compared “No DSS” to the “No Irish/No Pakistani” adverts which are now thankfully consigned to the blighted past of the rent market.


Criticism aside, “No DSS” ads are ubiquitous and not prosecuted against, they don’t look like going anywhere soon. This has led to many benefit claimants being unable to find appropriate housing on the private market.

Why don’t Landlords want DSS tenants?

At this point, we might ask what’s so bad about DSS tenants? It would be easy to read this article and blame landlords for unfairly discriminating against benefit claimants. But it isn’t wholly straightforward, and there can be some understandable reasons for no choosing selecting DSS tenants.

From some landlords, there are financial worries associated with taking on these type of tenants. For example, some landlord contents insurers demand higher premiums from landlords letting the DSS claimants.

Another factor to consider is that benefit claimants are less likely to have been able to save up the large sums needed to pay the large deposits and up to 8 weeks of rent up-front which many landlords now demand. In some cases, landlords may receive part of the rent from the government and part from the tenant, which may be an arrangement they would rather avoid.

These factors aside, it is likely that the unfortunate public opinion of benefit claimants – as somehow being at fault or inadequate – is a large contributing factor in the prevalence of the “No DSS” preference among some UK’s landlords.

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