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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Examples of discrimination

You could be a victim of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination or disability related discrimination.  Sometimes you may be treated in a way that can be reasonably justified although it may seem unfair

The Equality Commission for NI has a really useful database containing details of many of the legal cases it has taken on behalf of people who feel they have been discriminated against. 

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination occurs where you are treated less favourably than another person because of your race, colour, gender, sexual orientation or other protected ground. Examples of direct discrimination would include:

  • An estate agent refuses to give details of a rental property to an Asian family because the landlord has said that he or she doesn’t want an Asian family living in the property. 
  • A letting agent insists that a Polish couple provide guarantors and a double deposit for a property but does not require either from British or Irish applicants.
  • A landlord tried to evict his tenant when he finds out that the tenant is gay.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination occurs where a certain provision, requirement or practice is needed to access a service, but this has the effect of placing people who share a certain equality characteristic, like the same race or gender, at a particular disadvantage compared with other people.  This will normally be unlawful unless the provision, criterion or practice can be objectively justified

Examples of indirect discrimination include:

  • A housing authority has a policy that all applicants must attend an interview, but refuses to interview a Nigerian applicant because he does not speak English could be guilty of indirect discrimination.
  • A landlord who decides he will only let his property to a family could be guilty of indirect discrimination if the landlord knows that there are large numbers of single migrant workers in the community who may otherwise apply to rent the property.  If the landlord can reasonably justify his decision it will not be viewed as discrimination.  In this case, a landlord would have to pay a registration fee and may have to carry out expensive improvements to his house if he rents it to a group of single people as the house would be classed as a House in Multiple Occupation

Disability related discrimination

You should not be treated less favourably than another person because you have a disability.  The examples below show cases where someone has been discriminated against because he or she has a disability.

  • A housing association decides to begin eviction proceedings against a tenant who has been causing problems for his neighbours. The housing association knows that the tenant has mental health problems but does not consider this disability when making the decision to evict.
  • A housing authority writes to all applicants annually to ask them to renew their applications.  The housing authority does not make provisions for blind applicants who are unable to read this letter and may lose their place on the housing list.
  • An agent insists that all tenants pay their rent in person at the agency office.  This could be indirect discrimination if a disabled applicant was not able to travel to the agency office.

Exceptions

Sometimes, treatment may seem unfair but it can be justified.  This can be the case if the discrimination is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. 

  • A domestic abuse refuge hostel is allowed to refuse accommodation to men if its client group is abused women. 
  • Live-in landlords who let out other rooms in their residence do not have to comply with equality legislation.
  • A person can refuse to sell a property to someone on grounds that would otherwise be discriminatory if that person is not using the services of an agent or third party to sell the property.

If you are refused accommodation because you are on benefits, your landlord may be guilty of indirect discrimination.  For example, statistics show that disabled people, Roman Catholics and men are over represented in the long term unemployed population. However your landlord may be able to reasonably justify this decision – e.g. the mortgage lender may not allow the landlord to let the property to tenants in receipt of housing benefit.