Here is a question to the blog clinic from Lee who is a tenant
I am wondering whether you might be able to advise if my partner and I are victims of discrimination.
I am a gay man in a relationship, my boyfriend and I have decided to get a place together. We applied for a flat through a local agent, it was perfect for our needs so we were very excited when our references passed and the landlady said she was happy for us to move in.
A few days later we were extremely disappointed and angry when we were told that our application had been declined by the building management because there is a policy against cohabiting men (and also cohabiting women). We asked them why and if they would reconsider but they said that rules are rules.
The agent and the landlady did everything they could but their hands were tied, they were fantastic throughout and refunded our money with an apology. We have no problems with them whatsoever.
We were told that the building has high standards and prefers to let to families, opposite-sex couples or single professionals. They also do not allow tenancies for students or people on benefits, which is far more understandable. Without wishing to stereotype, the agent did mention that many of the flats are owned by retirees from a more conservative era.
We have written a complaint to the building management asking them to explain their policy but they have not replied and it is obvious that it has been ignored.
My partner and I have now found a flat in a block which lives in the 21st Century. We want to take the matter further but we have been told that there is no law stopping building managers stipulating who they let to and they can refuse to let to same-sex couples if they wish. Please tell me this is wrong?
I will not name the building management company but I can tell you that the flat is in Portsmouth.
Hopefully most people reading this will agree with me that this is shameful. I am not a human rights lawyer so I have had a look at the main resource on human rights which is the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.
The website is not the easiest to navigate but here are some helpful pages I have found.
There is no doubt that discrimination against someone due to their sexual orientation is unlawful and this is confirmed on this page.
Housing is an area where people can expect not to be discriminated against – a page here considers this and gives examples of unlawful behaviour. They do not include refusal to rent to a gay couple but this must be included.
However when it comes to what you can do about it, the options (according to this page) seem to be:
- Complain directly to the person or organisation.
- Use someone else to help you sort it out (alternative dispute resolution).
- Make a claim in court.
- You have tried complaining to the company and they have ignored you.
- As you have found somewhere else, you don’t really need to have it ‘sorted out’ . In any event alternative dispute resolution needs the consent of both parties and is not cheap.
- Making a claim in court would also be expensive and probably excessive in the circumstances, although see below.
What you want, I assume, is to make a point to the company so that they do not do this again to others in your situation.
Here are some ideas I have come up with:
- See if the management company is a member of any professional organisation and complain to them
- Contact the Equality Commission and get some advice from them (see the page here)
- Contact the local trading standards office – they may be able to help
- You may also be able to interest a firm of solicitors in a no win no fee claim – I have no experience in this type of work but from what you have said I suspect you would have a good chance of success.
If readers have any suggestions please use the comment box below (although note that all comments close after 3 months).