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Is your Rental Advert Legal?

Friday, 17th August 2012

Categories: Lettings

Author: Peter Barry

If you’re a landlord who has ever used your local newsagent as a cheap way to advertise rooms or flats, you might need to double check your wording before you pin your next card to the notice-board. While the eradication of racial discrimination has been at the forefront of social policy for a long time now and is backed up by various laws, it seems that one area has largely escaped the notice of the powers-that-be.

Many people advertising for flat shares, or renting out properties privately, are specifying a particular race or nationality for the tenancy. From ‘Muslim only’, to ‘Sri Lankan only’, it seems that certain landlords feel it is acceptable to discriminate on the grounds of race. Despite the fact that many of these landlords are specifying on the grounds of cultural or language commonalities, and the fact that a vacant room might be in a house already occupied solely by tenants from one country, or a specific cultural background, the practise is still potentially illegal.

Although the Equality Act is fairly clear about discriminating against people on the grounds of “age, disability, race, sex,” it can be difficult to ascertain the precise legal implications of these advertisements. By specifically denying certain applicants because of their race, nationality or religion, you are essentially engaging in discrimination. There are ways around the issue, which can be used without the overt connotations of racial distinction. For example, if a room is being rented in a house occupied by Muslim students, this can be mentioned in the advertisement and, as such, will probably be more likely to be rented to someone sharing the same faith and culture. Likewise, a room in a house of Polish plumbers will more likely appeal to a Polish speaker.

However, to exclude people purely on the basis of their race, cultural background or nationality from the outset is a dangerous precedent to set. We have spent generations in this country trying to rid our society of discrimination in all its guises. However innocent a flat advert might appear, allowing discriminatory content – in any form – is clearly unacceptable.

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