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Discrimination when buying, renting or living in property

Explains what laws protect you from discrimination when you buy, rent, or live in a property (or place), what you can do if you have been discriminated against, and where you can get support and advice.

How might I be discriminated against?

There are six types of disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. This page gives some examples of how these might occur when buying, renting or living in a property:

To find out more about each of these types of discrimination, see our information on disability discrimination.

Example of direct discrimination

Mary lives with bipolar disorder. She wants to rent a flat from a property company. She mentions she has bipolar disorder and is then told by the company that she cannot be their tenant but they accept applications from other people who do not have mental health problems.

Mary is being refused a tenancy from a property company because of her disability. This is direct discrimination.

Example of discrimination arising from disability

Nigel is the tenant of a housing association. He has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and because of this walks round his flat a lot. This disturbs his neighbour.

His tenancy officer at the housing association sends him a warning letter telling him that he will be taken to court if he continues to disturb his neighbour. This may be discrimination arising from disability.

But it will not be discrimination if the landlord:

  • did not know that Nigel had a mental health problem, or
  • can show that their action was necessary and appropriate.

They will also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for Nigel. So in this situation Nigel might want to request an adjustment to the tenancy policies or to ask his landlord for arrange a tenancy support service for him.

Example of indirect discrimination

A local authority decides that prospective tenants can only apply for council accommodation online. This disadvantages disabled people including people with mental health conditions that prevent them from being able to access the internet. The reason the local authority decide this is to save money.

This may be indirect discrimination unless the local authority can justify this practice.

They will also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for applicants who have a disability.

Example of harassment

Sarah has depression. She is not working and attends regular appointments with her community psychiatric nurse (CPN). Her private landlord knows this, and makes negative comments about her condition in front of other tenants. She feels humiliated and distressed. This is harassment.

Example of victimisation

Vickie has borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complains about discrimination to her landlord, who has made derogatory remarks about her condition in front of other tenants. Her landlord then sends a letter threatening to evict her. This is victimisation.

Example of failing to comply with the duty to reasonable adjustments

Joseph has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He has flashbacks and experiences acute anxiety which is made worse by people who call unannounced at his flat.

He writes an email to his landlord explaining that, to cope with PTSD, he needs written notice by email or a phone call in advance if anyone is coming round to see him. His community psychiatric nurse (CPN) writes a note confirming that this is important. This is likely to be a reasonable adjustment.

This information was published in December 2017.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References and bibliography available on request.

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