How to deal with housing discrimination
If you've been discriminated against when renting or buying a home there are organisations that can help. You have rights if you've been discriminated against by a service provider. A service provider can be a:
landlord or letting agency
council or housing association
estate agency or mortgage lender
Identifying the type of discrimination you've experienced will help you take the steps to resolve the issue. As a last resort, there are ways to settle issues in court if you need to.
You can be discriminated against over your protected characteristics:
pregnancy or maternity
your religion or beliefs
your sexual orientation
marriage or civil partnership status
gender reassignment (being trans: transsexual or transgender)
your race (including if you’re in the Gypsy or Traveller community)
You can also be discriminated against for:
someone else’s protected characteristic
someone thinking you’ve got a protected characteristic, but you do not
Types of discrimination
There are 5 main kinds of discrimination.
Direct discrimination happens when you're treated worse than others because of your protected characteristic.
Indirect discrimination happens when a service provider has a rule or policy that discriminates against a certain group.
Victimisation happens when you're treated badly or punished for having complained, or helped someone complain, about discrimination.
Harassment happens if you're verbally abused, attacked or made to feel uncomfortable because of a protected characteristic. There are different steps to deal with harassment and housing.
In some cases, service providers have to make reasonable adjustments to their services and premises so you can access them. These could include:
installing an accessible toilet
providing a ramp or handrails at the entrance to their premises
giving you written information in alternative formats, like Braille or large print
They must also:
change policies, practices and procedures that make it unreasonably difficult for you to use their service
provide help and services if that will help you use the service, such as an interpreter for a meeting
There are exceptions to this. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has information on the rules on reasonable adjustments.
When discrimination is allowed
Discrimination can sometimes be legal, including if it's:
necessary to resolve another injustice
in the interests of health and safety
the only way that service can be provided
If there's a way to provide the same service without discriminating against you the housing provider would probably not be able to rely on this.
Contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service if you need help. They can help you work out if the discrimination you've experienced is illegal.
How to resolve housing discrimination
Step 1: collect evidence
Gather as much evidence as you can, such as:
detailed notes on when, where and how the discrimination took place
written discriminatory policies
pictures of no DSS on rental adverts
letters, emails and texts between you and the service provider
You can ask people who were with you for witness statements. This will help if you decide to take your case to court.
Step 2: send a complaint in writing
You must write to the service provider to try to resolve the issue before you can take legal action.
If you feel comfortable you can write to the service provider yourself. If you need support with this the services in step 3 can help.
When you write your letter make sure to include what you want them to do. You can ask for things like:
changing a policy
access to the service you were denied
Step 3: get help from a specialist
If complaining has not helped, or you need support to complain, there are services that can help you.
Contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service. They are equality law and discrimination experts who can:
offer you free advice on your options
help you with accessing mediation or other informal routes
help you find a solicitor to take your case to court
Other services that can help
Step 4: if it's still not resolved
Taking legal action could help you get the outcome you need.
There is a 6-month deadline to apply for court action, starting from the date you were discriminated against.
For further information about discrimination
Last updated: 30 March 2022