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Overview of discrimination in housing

This advice applies to Scotland

If you’re treated unfairly - for example, by a landlord or estate agent, when you’re renting or buying a property and it’s because of who you are, it may be unlawful discrimination. If you’ve experienced unlawful discrimination, you may be able to do something about it.

Read this page to find out more about how to decide if something is unlawful discrimination.

Identifying discrimination

The law which says you mustn’t be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. This means you can take action in the civil courts.

You can follow these steps to check whether unlawful discrimination has taken place:

  • why you are being treated unfairly - unfair treatment only counts as unlawful discrimination if it's for certain reasons
  • who is treating you unfairly - unfair treatment only counts as unlawful discrimination if it's carried out by certain people
  • what's the unfair treatment - only certain types of behaviour count as unlawful discrimination
  • how is the treatment unfair - there are different types of unlawful discrimination.

Who’s treating you unfairly?

The following people mustn’t discriminate against you when you’re renting or buying a property:

  • private landlords
  • social landlords like local authorities and housing associations
  • tenants who have the right to sublet their property
  • letting and estate agents
  • owners of property
  • property management agencies
  • rent collection services
  • tenant management associations.

Why are you being treated unfairly?

It’s only unlawful discrimination if you’re treated unfairly because of:

  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

The Equality Act calls these things protected characteristics.

What’s the unfair treatment?

The Equality Act says the following things could be unlawful discrimination when you’re renting or buying a property if it's because of a protected characteristic:

  • offering you a property on worse or less favourable terms
  • refusing to let or sell you a property
  • treating you badly or less favourably
  • not allowing you to use certain facilities or benefits - for example, a communal garden, or imposing conditions or restrictions on your use of these things
  • evicting you or taking steps to evict you
  • behaving in a way which causes you distress or offends or intimidates you - the Equality Act calls this harassment
  • punishing you because you complain about discrimination, or help someone else complain - the Equality Act calls this victimisation.

How is the treatment unfair?

There are different types of unlawful discrimination. You may be experiencing unlawful discrimination in housing if someone:

  • treats you differently and worse than others because of who you are, because of who they think you are or because of someone you are connected to – this is called direct discrimination
  • applies a policy, rule or way of doing things that puts you and other people like you at a disadvantage compared with others – this is called indirect discrimination
  • treats you badly because of something connected to your disability – this is called discrimination arising from a disability
  • fails to make a reasonable adjustment if you're disabled – this is called the duty to make reasonable adjustments
  • treats you in a way that is offensive, frightening, degrading, humiliating or distressing – this is called harassment
  • treats you badly because you complained about discrimination or because they think you complained about discrimination - this is called victimisation.

Examples of unfair treatment when you’re renting or buying a property

  • you find it difficult to use your local council’s choice based letting system because you’re disabled
  • you’re being evicted because your landlord has found out you’re gay
  • your landlord is being abusive and threatening towards you because you’re transitioning gender
  • you’ve asked your property management company to install a visual door entry system because you’re deaf but they’ve refused.  

Next steps

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UAT (Release)