Any discrimination against you because of your nationality, race, religion, sexuality, disability, age or gender is against the law. However, agents and landlords will need to see proof that you have a legal right to live in the UK.
It is against the law to treat somebody less favourably just because of their:
- being or becoming a transsexual person
- being married or in a civil partnership
- being pregnant or on maternity leave
- race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
- religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
- gender (whether they are male or female)
- sexual orientation
You’re legally protected from discrimination on any of those grounds by the Equality Act 2010.
The ‘Right to Rent’ immigration check
It is against the law to discriminate against anybody just because of their nationality or race. However, UK law states that before anybody can rent a home in England, the landlord or letting agent must check their immigration status. They must also check the status of anyone aged 18 or over who will be living with the tenant.
The landlord or agent will need to see original documents, and makea copy of them –they must not keep your documents. A landlord who keeps your documents is committing a crime.
Your documents will need to show that you fit in to one of the following categories:
- you are a British citizen; or
- you are a citizen of a country in the EU or EEA; or
- you are a citizen of another country with no time limits on your permission to live in the UK (such as indefinite leave to remain); or
- you have permission to stay in the UK for a limited time, for example a study or work visa, or you are a partner of someone settled in the UK, or you have humanitarian protection, limited leave or discretionary leave to remain.
If your documents are not a simple passport, before you visit a landlord or agent, it would be a good idea to find them in this guidance so you can point them out to a landlord and they can be checked more quickly.
Landlords and apply these new rules consistently, and there is a Code of Practice to help ensure they do. This means that they must check everyone’s documents, not just those of people who they believe might look like new migrants.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against during a ‘Right to Rent’ check, you can find guidance about challenging it.
For further information on the so-called ‘Right to Rent’ please see:
If you believe that you have been discriminated against
It is important to get all the information you can about what has happened and to act quickly.
- ask for any decisions to be in writing
- get the names and job titles of the people involved
- make a careful, detailed record of what has happened – including what was said, by whom, with dates and times. Think about why you have been discriminated against and on what grounds, for example was there another person of different nationality who was treated more favourably?
- Consider which course of action, as detailed below, to take
If you feel able to, this is the best place to start. Talk to the landlord or estate agent informally about your complaint. They may want to put things right!
If you don’t feel able to speak to the landlord about your complaint or it isn't resolved, you can make a formal complaint.
If the person discriminating against you is an agent, follow their complaints procedure. If there isn't a complaints procedure, follow the third course of action.
If the person discriminating against you is a landlord, put the complaint in writing, tell them what you want them to do, and give them 21 days to respond.
At this stage you can also contact Trading Standards – they are unable to take individual action to help you, but will investigate whether the perpetrator is a ‘fit and proper person’.
You may also be able to take legal action against the landlord or agent. You may be able to get legal help from a solicitor through Civil Legal Advice, a solicitor, or Tower Hamlets Law Centre. You should emphasise that your complaint is about discrimination (not primarily about housing) as you may then be able to get free advice.
Complaining to a member organisation or ombudsman
If formal action fails and your complaint is about a landlord who is a member, you can complain to the National Landlords Association or the Residential Landlords Association.
If your complaint is about an estate or letting agent, you can complain to
The Council can fine agents up to £5,000 for not belonging to one of these schemes, not displaying which scheme they belong to, or for falsely displaying membership of a scheme which they do not belong to. See here for more information
If the letting agent is a member, you can also complain to:
Report hate crime
Crimes committed against someone because of their disability, gender-identity, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation are hate crimes and should be reported to the police immediately.
Hate crimes can include:
- threatening behaviour
- damage to property
- inciting others to commit hate crimes
You can report hate crime online.
Call 999 if you’re reporting a crime that’s in progress or if someone is in immediate danger.
If the crime isn’t an emergency, call 101 or contact your local police.
If you want advice or help at any stage you can contact any of the organisations signed up to the Charter. We all promise to find the best way to improve your situation - and the most effective action to take against landlords or agents who break the rules.