It’s been a while since this screen-shot (click to enlarge) prompted a Twitter bust-up (as reported on over at the Duchess of Hackney’s blog).
But I thought I’d use this little exchange as an illustration of how people who are trying to do the right thing can still get it desperately wrong.
Are estate agents and landlords permitted to discriminate against non religious believers?
What can you do if you’ve been at the sharp end of an estate agent’s or landlord’s discrimination?
The starting point for any discussion about housing discrimination is the Equality Act 2010.
The purpose of the Equality Act was to bring all the previous anti-discrimination legislation including the Sex Discrimination Act 1974, the Race Relations Act 1975 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, all under one roof.
The “protected characteristics” under the Equality Act are:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and Civil Partnerships
- Religion or Belief (or lack of belief)
- Sexual Orientation
A person is protected from discrimination if s/he is treated less favourably because of one or more of these attributes.
If you look at Part 4 of the Act, you’ll see the prohibition against discrimination in the disposal or management of premises.
Schedule 5 does provide exceptions to the above rule – particularly with regard to “Small Premises”. Paragraph 3 describes Small Premises as shared accommodation – and as the Explanatory Notes show, this exception does not cover Carrie’s situation in the above screen-shot.
“A Jewish family own a large house but only live in part of it. They decide to let out an unoccupied floor but any new tenant will have to share the kitchen and cooking facilities. The family only choose to let to practising Jews as they are concerned that otherwise their facilities for keeping their food kosher may be compromised. This would be permissible under this exception”.
So what’s Carrie’s remedy? Sure, she can get in touch with the local renters’ activist group and they may attempt to “confront” the agent or landlord in an attempt to resolve the situation – but I do have to wonder how effective that approach is.
In my view, doing anything other than following the Equality Act procedure is a huge signal to the discriminators that you have no idea what you’re doing.
You can go to the Property Ombudsman – for what it’s worth. The Property Ombudsman offers:
“A free, fair and independent service for dealing with unresolved disputes between sales and letting agents and consumenrs who are actual or potential buyers or sellers or landlords or tenants of residential property in the UK”.
Yet, as you’ll see from this link:
“The BBC London has learned that, although 36 people told the Property Ombudsman they were the victim of racial discrimination in the past three years, not one single complaint was upheld.
Only two allegations resulted in a full investigation”.
So if well meaning chats and Property Ombudsman complaints don’t inspire you with confidence, what next?
The Equality Act does provide for a County Court remedy – and the County Court has the power to grant injunctions and award compensation for “injured feelings”. Time limits for bringing Court proceedings do apply.
Perhaps, rather than showing your belly to a discriminating landlord or agent, this questionnaire may elicit the desired effect – and you may find a willingness to resolve the matter without recourse to court proceedings.
Cllr Jacobson (in the Duchess of Hackney post) says that landlords can discriminate against [non-kosher] people in the same way that they can refuse DSS or people with pets. This, of course, is wrong as DSS and people with pets are not protected characteristics – whereas belief and lack of belief is a protected characteristic.