There are legal obligations on landlords both in the public and private sectors as service providers and employers, to take reasonable steps to ensure that people are not discriminated against directly or indirectly due to their race, colour, gender or disability. The specific legislation is as follows:
Sex Discrimination Act 1975
Race Relations Act 1976
Disability Discrimination Act 1995
Equalities Act 2010
Direct discrimination is defined as treating a person less favourably than another on the grounds of their race, gender or disability. In some cases, discrimination may occur where there has been a failure to comply with a statutory duty. In relation to disability, it should be noted that the statutory definition has been widened to include those with certain longterm medical conditions.
Indirect discrimination consists of applying a requirement or condition that, although applied equally to persons whether male or female, black or white, is such that a considerably smaller proportion of a particular racial or gender group can comply with it than others, and it cannot be shown to be ‘justifiable’.
With regard to issues pertaining to disability, a similar requirement exists that landlords do not impose criteria that could be identified as ‘unreasonable’.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission published a code of practice on racial equality in housing. The code is important because it is a statutory code, which has been approved by Parliament. This means that the courts will take into account the code’s recommendations in legal cases. The code is in two main parts; the first explains what landlords need to know about discrimination; the second makes recommendations about how landlords can avoid being discriminatory.
The landlord should note that tenants should not be chosen on the basis of race, religion, marital status, disability or sexuality. If the landlord discriminates against any tenant on these grounds, the landlord could be prosecuted. If the landlord is letting rooms in the landlord’s home, the landlord may specify the sex of prospective tenants. Age discrimination is prohibited in employment but is allowed in housing. In some cases, housing might have to be let to those over 55 in order to comply with planning requirements.