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Specifying ‘Race’ in letting adverts may be illegal

People who post “To Let” adverts specifying a particular race or religion may be breaking the law, a BBC investigation has found.

Notices advertising rooms to let and flat-sharing are a common sight at many news agents, around the country as well as on websites such as Gumtree.  

Legal experts however, say landlords who specify that they can only accommodate people of a certain race or religion are breaking the law.  

According to the BBC survey, a vast majority of these advertisements were found in London.  

When contacted by the BBC however, advertisers were taken aback to hear they might be breaking the law.

A woman who placed a “Filipino only” advert in a newsagent in Golders Green, north London, explains: “I’m sorry about that. All the people here are Filipino so we need Filipinos.”

An advertiser in Tooting, south London, seeking a “Muslim family” is disappointed that the law may not allow for religious preference. “We are Muslim and it’s a flatshare. What can I say? Everyone has his own preferences. OK?”

Diet is a commonly cited reason. The author of a “Gujarati (Indian) only” ad told the BBC: “I’m a vegetarian and I don’t like meat in the kitchen.”

An advertiser in Perry Barr, Birmingham, who put an ad on Gumtree for a “student room (Asian females only)” defends the wording: “We have done that because we are Asians and live in.”

A number of those contacted refused to discuss the wording of their adverts.

The Equality Act says: “A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.” But how this might apply to flat adverts is yet to be tested in court and there is disagreement over the application.

The BBC News Magazine quoted Dr Nuno Ferreira, an expert in discrimination law at the University of Manchester, as saying: “It doesn’t make any difference if the landlord lives in the premises or not. This distinction will have a bearing on discrimination on other grounds, but not in relation to race or ethnicity.”

The same applies to tenants looking for a housemate, he believes.

Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association, was less certain. “It is not clear whether tenants who do the same are breaking the law or not, although such behaviour is discriminatory against other potential housemates,” he says. “Tenants looking for new housemates should focus on describing the house’s current occupants so that potential applicants can judge for themselves whether they would be a suitable fit or not.”

– UKAsian Staff

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