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.
The ‘Right to Rent’ immigration check
It is against the law to discriminate against anybody just because of their nationality or race.
However, in 2014 the government made it law 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.
On 1 March 2019 the High Court ruled that the government is acting unlawfully by forcing landlords to do this. The Judge said: "the Scheme introduced by the government does not merely provide the opportunity for private landlords to discriminate but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not...the government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for the discrimination which is taking place."
Because the government is seeking to appeal the judgement, for now landlords or agents must ask to see original documents showing 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 but you have no time limits on your permission to live in the UK (indefinite leave to remain, for example)
- You have a time limit on your permission to stay in the UK, 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, you might want to find them in this online CIH guide so you can point them out to a landlord and they can be checked more quickly.
Landlords and agents must see your documents and they must take a copy of them – but they must not keep your documents. A landlord who keeps your documents is committing a crime.
Landlords and agents cannot discriminate in applying these new rules, and there is a Code of Practice to help ensure they do not. This means that they must check everyone’s documents, not just those of people who might look like new migrants.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against during a so-called ‘Right to Rent’ check, you can find guidance about challenging it.
For further information on the so-called ‘Right to Rent’ please see:
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.
For further information please see:
If you believe that you have been discriminated against what should you do?
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?
Step 1: Informal action
If you feel that you can, talk to the landlord or estate agent informally about your complaint. They may want to put things right!
Step 2: Formal action
If the complaint 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, go to stage 3.
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 the council. The council will be able to consider whether the perpetrator is a ‘fit and proper person’. In some cases, the council may be able to take away their right to be a landlord or agent.
Tel: 020 7364 5008
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.
Step 3: Complaining to a member organisation or ombudsman
If formal action fails (step 2) 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. Visit the renters charter complaints page for more information.
If the estate 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.