This short guide outlines how to avoid breaching anti-discrimination rules when letting a room or other accommodation in the UK. Most of the rules come under the Equality Act 2010, and some exemptions apply for small households. To avoid problems, we encourage advertisers to focus more on describing the current household rather than the desired new tenant.
The Equality Act 2010
Under the UK’s Equality Act 2010, it’s illegal to discriminate on the grounds of certain ‘protected characteristics’ when letting accommodation, including:
- Gender reassignment
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Race (including colour, nationality, citizenship and ethnic or national origins)
- Religion or belief
- Sex or sexual orientation
Implications for Landlords & Agents
- Rental terms offered to the tenant must not be less favourable for reasons that fall within a protected characteristic.
- You may have to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ when renting to a disabled person. This does not mean removing or altering physical features, but may require extra equipment or support.
- You must not discriminate during the tenancy. For example, you cannot prohibit a tenant’s visitors just because of their sexual orientation.
Do the Equality Act Rules Always Apply?
It’s always illegal to discriminate on the grounds of race. There is no exception.
Otherwise, the Equality Act can exempt many room rentals and flatshares from other aspects of the rules. These are known as ‘small premises exceptions‘ and apply where each of the following is true:
- The advertiser, or a close member of their family (such as a spouse, partner, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling) lives in the same property.
- They share facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom or living room with the tenant.
- In addition to the advertiser and their household, the property cannot accommodate more than two other households, or six individual tenants or lodgers.
The exceptions don’t apply if the advertiser is:
- Only sharing the means of access, for example, the entrance hall and stairs.
- A live-out landlord or agent.
- The departing flatmate.
What About Other Types of Discrimination?
Age is not a protected characteristic for property rentals, so it’s not illegal to specify a desired age range for the new tenant.
‘No DSS’ – Refusing to Rent to Benefits Claimants
“No DSS” has become shorthand for refusing prospective renters who rely on state benefits to pay some or all of their rent.
Whilst protected characteristics under the discrimination laws do not include income and employment status, “No DSS” has come under increasing scrutiny from Government and housing charities in recent years.
In July 2020, York County Court District Judge Victoria Mark ruled that a rental agent was guilty of indirect discrimination under the Equality Act when a woman was refused rental because she was on housing benefit. The case was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The woman was awarded £3500.
Previous cases also established that “No DSS” landlords and agents were guilty of indirect discrimination. These cases were settled out of court.
In line with industry best practice, we do not allow “No DSS” adverts on our site.
Further guidance from Citizens Advice Bureau
Start By Placing Your Ad
We get new users searching our site every day. Start by placing your own Room-Offered or Room-Wanted listing to make sure you appear in their search results.