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. Applies to England and Wales.

Terms you need to know


Term Meaning

An advocate is a person who can both listen to you and speak for you in times of need. Having an advocate can be helpful in situations where you are finding it difficult to make your views known, or to make people listen to them and take them into account. Find out more on our advocacy information page.

County court

This is a court which deals with civil (non–criminal) matters.  There are fees for starting a claim in the county court. But if you have a low income, you may be able to pay a reduced amount, or none at all (called a ‘fee remission’).

Cases in the county court are in one of three tracks:

  • small claims track is where the amount of compensation you are asking for is less than £10,000 and your case is not complicated
  • fast track is where your case is more complicated but can be finished in a 1-day hearing
  • multi-track is where the claim is complicated, and/or will take longer than a 1-day hearing, and/or is for a larger sum of money

Fast track and multi-track cases are costly and if you do not win your case, you usually have to pay the other person’s legal costs.


The Equality Act says that you have a disability if you have an impairment that is either physical or mental and the impairment has a substantial, adverse and long term effect on your normal daily activities.

Disability discrimination

This is when someone is treated worse because of their physical or mental health condition. The Equality Act explains what a disability is and when worse treatment is discrimination. You have to show that you have a disability before you can challenge worse treatment as disability discrimination. 


There are many situations in which you may feel treated unfairly because of your disability, but the Equality Act only covers these types of discrimination:

  • direct discrimination
  • discrimination arising from disability
  • indirect discrimination
  • harassment
  • victimisation
  • the duty to make reasonable adjustments
Equality Act 2010

This is the law that explains:

  • what behaviour counts as unlawful discrimination
  • who has a right to challenge discrimination
Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA)

This is a law that the government has brought in to protect our human rights in the UK.


Premises means buildings and land that goes with them (property), in which people live.

Protected characteristics

'Protected characteristics' is the name for the nine personal characteristics that are protected by the Equality Act in certain situations. They are:

  • age
  • disability (this can include mental health problems)
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
Public authorities

These are organisations whose role is of a public nature. This includes:

  • Police
  • NHS hospitals and employees
  • Local authorities and their employees
  • Some nursing and personal care accommodation providers
  • Prison staff
  • Courts and tribunals, including Mental Health Tribunals
  • Government departments and their employees
  • Statutory bodies and their employees (for example the Information Commissioner’s Office)

Public functions

This means an act or activity taken by a public authority which is not a service. A public authority carries out a public function when it performs its particular legal duties and powers. Examples of public functions are licensing, planning and enforcement of parking.

Public authorities can get private companies or voluntary organisations to carry out their public functions. So for example, a private company that runs prisons and takes prisoners into custody would be considered a private company carrying out a public function.

Public sector equality duty

This is the legal duty which public authorities like councils, NHS hospitals and government departments have to follow. It means they have to consider how their policies and practices affect people with protected characteristics, like people with mental health problems.

Private or voluntary organisations also have to follow the public sector equality duty when they carry out a public function on behalf of public authorities. For example, a private firm that is employed by a local council to collect council tax arrears needs to follow the public sector equality duty.

Reasonable adjustments

These are changes that:

  • employers
  • organisations and people providing services and public functions
  • education providers like universities and colleges
  • managers of properties like landlords
  • clubs and associations

should make for you if you are at a major disadvantage because of your mental health problems and it is reasonable.

Examples of reasonable adjustments include:

  • making changes to the way things are organised or done   
  • making changes to the built environment, or physical features like steps or doorways around you
  • providing aids and services for you

This includes services provided by:

  • local councils like advice services or social work services and park and leisure services
  • government departments like prison education, job centres and court services
  • charities like information and advice services
  • private companies and people like hotels, restaurants, solicitors, accountants, telesales businesses, leisure centres, sports facilities, gas and electric companies, buses, trains, theatres, cinemas
  • places of worship
  • GPs, hospitals and clinics


This information was published in December 2017. We will revise it in 2019.

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