NatWest branches shut down over discrimination against renters on benefits
Renter unions successfully shut down NatWest branches across the country this Saturday over discrimination against renters claiming housing benefit.
Hundreds of people took part in protests at Natwest branches in seven cities today, including Brighton, Bristol, Glasgow, London, Newcastle, Manchester and Sheffield, organised by renter action groups ACORN, Living Rent and London Renters Union.
Protestors occupied NatWest branches in Sheffield and Manchester and in Bristol and London, NatWest branches were forced to close as protestors demanded #YesDSS.
A clause in Natwest bank’s buy-to-let mortgage terms rules out renting to “DSS” tenants. A landlord with a NatWest mortgage was recently required to wither pay a large penalty fee or evict their tenant, a vulnerable older woman claiming housing benefit.
Yesterday, NatWest contacted Acorn in an attempt to persuade campaigners to call off today’s protests while the bank reviews its “No DSS” clause.
But campaigners are demanding that Natwest immediately scrap the “No DSS” policy which is potentially in breach of the Equality Act 2010. The bank has also faced criticism from MPs for operating a “housing blacklist”.
Benefit claimants face significant discrimination in access to housing. According to research by Shelter and the National Housing Federation, six in ten landlords prefer not to rent to housing benefit claimants and one in three renters on housing benefit aren’t able to rent a home due to “no DSS” discrimination. Currently 1.5 million people living in the private rented sector claim housing benefit.
TSB and Santander have previously abolished similar policies to NatWest following campaigning by ACORN and Living Rent.
A spokesperson for the unions taking action said:
“NatWest’s blatant discrimination against housing benefit claimants is another reminder that our rigged housing system prioritises profits for landlords, investors and banks over everyone’s need for a decent home, and it should be brought to an end immediately.”
“We plan to keep the pressure on NatWest until it drops its “No DSS” clause. The housing crisis is bad enough already for people on low incomes without the added pressure of benefit discrimination. Renters claiming housing benefit face huge difficulties finding housing because landlords and agents won’t rent to them.”
“Ten years ago the British public paid an astronomical £45.5 billion to keep Natwest’s parent company RBS afloat. The public majority own NatWest so it’s a disgrace that the government is happy to let NatWest deny housing to vulnerable renters despite getting massive state support and losing £130bn since we bailed them out.”
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The signatories include leaders of trade unions Unite, Unison, NEU, GMB and CWU, tenant unions London Renters Union, Greater Manchester Housing Action and ACORN, and groups campaigning on housing policy such as New Economics Foundation and Generation Rent
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