Discrimination In Tenancy Agreements
Landlords must not discriminate against tenants because any of the following:
- Sex / Gender
- Religion or belief
It is illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants for any of the above, consequently the following may be against the law if a tenant is subjected to any of the practises:
- Renting a property to particular tenants on worse terms than other tenants
- Treating particular tenants differently when determining policies regarding facilities such as laundry and garden access.
- Evicting or harassing tenants because of race, gender disability, sexuality or religion.
- Refusing to assist reasonable requests for a disabled person, such as allowing a blind dog to live in a property for a blind tenant
Most of the discrimination rules referred to do not usually apply if the landlord is residing in the same property as the tenant. However, the landlord is still forbidden to discriminate because of a tenant’s race.
Sex Discrimination Act
The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA) is written in terms of discrimination against women, but also applies to discrimination against men. The act defines two kinds of sex discrimination, generally referred to as direct and indirect.
An example of direct sex discrimination is a landlord treating a female tenant as inferior compared to a male tenant purely because of her sex.
An example of indirect sex discrimination is where a landlord applies a condition or requirement to a female tenant which she must comply to in order to qualify for, or obtain tenancy.
The Sex Discrimination Act also makes it against the law to victimise a tenant by treating him or her less favourably than another tenant because they have brought a sex discrimination claim or alleged that someone has committed an act of sex discrimination.
Disability Discrimination Act
The Disability Discrimination Act makes it illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants because of a disability. The definition of a ‘disabled person’, as given by the Act is:
“A person has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his/her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”
In accordance with the Act, a landlord is discriminating if:
- The landlord threats a tenant less favourably because of a reason related to their disability.
- The landlord is unable to show that the treatment in question is justified.
- The landlord fails to comply with Part 2, Sec 6 of the Disability Discrimination Act. In the case of tenancy agreements, this section deals with adjustments that are made to such agreements in order to suit the disabled tenant.
- The landlord cannot show that his failure to comply with Sec 6 is justified.
Acceptable reasons to treat a disabled tenant differently
Under some circumstances it may be acceptable to treat a disabled tenant differently from others. For example:
- It is some times justified to refuse tenancy to a disabled person the grounds of health and safety
- It is acceptable to refuse a disabled person access to a facility, if allowing them access results in the prevention of others using the facility. In such a case it would be acceptable to allow the disabled person different access to the facility than would usually be given.
- If a disabled person is unable to enter into a legally enforceable agreement, or give any informed consent, it is acceptable to refuse to let.
Making Adjustments to Properties
It is not a requirement for landlords to make any alterations to their properties in order to make them more easily accessible for disabled people.
Racial Discrimination Act
Under the Race Relations Act it is unlawful for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant on racial grounds. The Act defines racial grounds as including race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins.
According to the Race Relations Act, there are four main types of racial discrimination: direct, indirect, victimisation and harassment.
Direct racial discrimination is when a landlord treats a tenant less favourably because of issues related to race. An example of this is if a landlord refuses to give tenancy to a tenant because of their race.
Indirect racial discrimination may fall into one of two categories, depending on the racial grounds of discrimination. The first is on grounds of colour or nationality, which is when a landlord requires a non-discriminatory condition which applies equally to all tenants. The second is based on race, ethnic or national origin. This occurs when a provision, criterion or practice which, on the face of it, has nothing to do with race and is applied equally to all tenants:
This is when a tenant is treated less favourably than others in the same circumstances because they have complained about racial discrimination, or supported someone else who has.
The definition of harassment introduced by the Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 applies when the discrimination is on grounds of race or ethnic or national origins, but not colour or nationality. Harassment on grounds of colour or nationality amounts to less favourable treatment and may be unlawful direct discrimination.
A landlord harasses a tenant on grounds of race or ethnic or national origins when he or she engages in unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating the tenant’s dignity, or creating an intimidating or hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
If you think you may have been discriminated against then you have the right to take legal action. The first step is to seek advice from a qualified solicitor, the Citizens Advice Bureau or a legal advice centre.