Unequal Lettings Market In “Equal” Rights Britain
Unequal Lettings Market In “Equal” Rights Britain
In 2010, the Equality Act was introduced to replace previous anti-discrimination laws, and has extended the policy to nine other protected characteristics, including age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The country is clearly taking further steps towards an anti-discriminatory legislation.
The Equality Act resonates with many people’s lives today. On the 29th March 2014, we witnessed for the first time in the U.K that same-sex couples could get married lawfully. However, its impact is so much broader. One of the sectors which has been affected is the U.K’s lettings market. This meant that agents cannot alone, or complicit with any party discriminate against an individual’s protected characteristic as outlined by the Equality Act 2010; Anti-discrimination regulation is also further underpinned by the Estate Agents Act 1979.
Arguably, for those impartial and open-minded, the legislative revision was another step-in the right direction for anti-discrimination in the U.K. By law, landlords and lettings agents had to comply with both Equality Act 2010 and the Estate Agents Act 1979. Any discriminatory conduct against the protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010 is unlawful. However, despite these steps we still see discriminatory practices in the lettings market.
In some situations, there have been acts of discrimination carried out against an applicant’s protected characteristic who is applying to rent a property. Applicants are usually unaware of these acts, as false and disingenuous reasons are put in place by the landlord and letting agent to conceal their unlawful actions. Under such circumstances, landlord and letting agent are often in a complicit to each other.
For example, if a landlord is a detractor of same-sex couples or homophobic. Then after finding out that a same-sex couple is applying to rent their property, as an excuse, the landlord would ask the lettings agent to state that their property to let has been taken. Or, they may lie to the applicant that they have found a better-suited applicant who is financially more stable. In separate occasions, landlord and lettings agent also denied applicants based on the applicant’s race and ethnicity. Under these circumstances, both the landlord and the lettings agency would be guilty of direct discrimination.
In fact, this is deemed unlawful because all that is required for an applicant to be eligible is:
- Right to rent check and right to reside in the U.K
- · Employee reference and a proof of income, to show a tenant has financial ability to pay the rent
- Reference from previous landlord
- Guarantor details if applicable
- A credit check with consent. For those with poor credit score, there are options of paying a larger deposit or paying more rent upfront.
- Background, immigration and anti-money laundering checks.
If all of the above checks are complete, under no circumstances should an applicant be rejected due to race, religion or sexual preference. These characteristics are certainly not a criterion in filtering applicants, it is indeed against equality and human rights to reject applicants based on these characteristics.
Even though the discriminatory actions are known to the agent, complicity between an agent and landlord continues. This could be due to both parties’ fear of losing out on income on their business and investments. Clearly, if both parties were to cut ties with each other, this in turn leads to a loss of earnings for both sides. As the lettings market is such a target driven industry, while agents are reviewed on how many properties they let a month in addition to their source of revenue, an agent definitely has the motive to carry on a complicit.
Nevertheless, situations like this do not occur for all rental scenarios, but the fact that it is still happening after Equality Act 2010 came in to effect is indeed shocking. However, the question is: how are the landlords finding this protected characteristic information out to begin with to reject a tenancy application? As explained earlier, no checks are carried out on sexual preferences, religion and race. Unless a landlord is present on viewings, they have had no direct communication or contact with the applicant.
As it would be ineffective to attempt to change the political and ethnic views of every individual, the commendable measurement to solve this problem will be to focus on letting agents whom complicit with discriminatory landlords and hold them accountable for these discriminatory actions. In fact, when an agent learns of a landlord’s prohibited conducts which leads them to reject a tenancy, cooperation must be ceased immediately. Then, to prevent the landlord from committing the offence again; it would be practical to ban such landlords from letting properties in the U.K.
Moreover, agents need to be trained on how to safeguard and pass on sensitive information about applicants to a landlord, again no checks are carried out on an individual’s race, religion and sexual orientation. Information pertaining to personal privacy as such should not be passed on; If someone meets all the legal requirements with all references checked, they should not be rejected under such circumstances.
In conclusion, such conducts are hard to uncover as they are being well concealed, I only write this as I have had an insider’s perspective and witnessed these practices. It can be challenging for applicants to discover if they have been discriminated against, that is why it is useful to always challenge and dispute a tenancy application denial if the denial reason is not given, or suspicious, especially if an applicant has met all the criteria to pass referencing as mentioned earlier. Everyone has the right to challenge and appeal to rejections.
If you believe that you have been unlawfully discriminated against within in the property market, it will be helpful to contact the citizens advise bureau for further advice.
© 2018 Anonymous Report