Discrimination

Discrimination by landlords on the grounds of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation or religion is unlawful. This applies to both direct and indirect discrimination.

This content applies to Scotland

Race discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for landlords to discriminate on racial grounds, either directly or indirectly, against people applying to rent accommodation, by:

  • offering the accommodation on inferior terms

  • refusing an application for a tenancy (on racial grounds)

  • treating the applicant in any way less favourably than other people in need of such accommodation.

It is also unlawful for landlords and tenants to discriminate on racial grounds in the sub-letting or assignation of a tenancy. [1]

Claims for unlawful racial discrimination can be brought in the sheriff court and damages awarded for successful actions. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) may be able to provide advice and assistance to individuals thinking of raising such actions.

Sex discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for landlords to discriminate on the ground of sex, [2] either directly or indirectly, against people applying to rent accommodation, for example by offering female tenants worse facilities than male tenants.

It is unlawful for landlords and tenants to discriminate on the grounds of sex in the sub-letting or assignation of a tenancy. [3]

Claims for unlawful sexual discrimination can be brought in the sheriff court and damages awarded for successful actions. The EHRC may be able to provide advice and assistance to individuals thinking of raising such actions.

Disability Discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 contains specific legal obligations not to discriminate on the ground of disability. Anyone letting property must not discriminate unreasonably against disabled people. [4] The usual exemptions for small premises apply which mean, in essence, that the Act's provisions do not cover someone letting out rooms in their own home. [5]

Actions for loss occasioned by discrimination on the ground of disability must be brought in the sheriff court. [6] Actions must be raised within six months of the act of discrimination or nine months of the act if it is first referred to conciliation. [7] The EHRC may be able to provide advice and assistance to individuals thinking of raising such actions.

Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. Landlords cannot discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation when letting property, for example, refusing to let a property to a person because of their sexual orientation, offering property on different terms, or evicting someone because of their sexual orientation. [8] The small premises exemption applies (see below), which would mean that a landlord letting a room in her/his house would be exempt from the regulations.

Claims for unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation can be brought in the sheriff court and damages awarded for successful actions. [9] The EHRC may be able to provide advice and assistance to individuals thinking of raising such actions.

For more information, please see the section on housing for lesbians and gay men.

Discrimination on the grounds of religion

The Equality Act 2010 also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief. This could include a lack of religion or belief. [10] The legislation extends to anyone letting property, [11] for example, a landlord cannot refuse to let a room to people of a particular religion. The small premises exemption applies (see below).

Claims for unlawful discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief can be brought in the sheriff court and damages awarded for successful actions. [12] The EHRC may be able to provide advice and assistance to individuals thinking of raising such actions.

Small premises exemption

There are specific exemptions within anti-discrimination legislation for small premises. [13]

For a property to be covered by this exemption, there are specific criteria that must be met:

  • The landlord or a near relative must live on the premises and intend to continue living there.

  • The landlord or a near relative will share some of the accommodation with the tenant.

  • In addition to the accommodation occupied by the landlord or near relative, there is accommodation for no more than two other separate households, if the property is divided into separate lettings, or six other people, in the case of a boarding house.

Last updated: 29 December 2014

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.33 Equality Act 2010

  • [2]

    ss.29, 33 Equality Act 2010

  • [3]

    s.33 Equality Act 2010

  • [4]

    s.33 Equality Act 2010

  • [5]

    s.23 Disability Discrimination Act 1995

  • [6]

    ss.113-114 Equality Act 2010

  • [7]

    s118(1), (4) Equality Act 2010

  • [8]

    s33 The Equality Act 2010

  • [9]

    ss. 113-114 The Equality Act 2010

  • [10]

    s.10 Equality Act 2010

  • [11]

    s.33 Equality Act 2010

  • [12]

    ss.113-114 Equality Act 2010

  • [13]

    Sch 5(3) The Equality Act 2010