Letting agents who discriminate against black tenants face probe

Letting agents who discriminate against black tenants face probe

An investigation is being launched by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into letting agents who allegedly discriminate against black tenants.

The move follows last night’s BBC programme which apparently showed ten letting agents in London discriminating against would-be tenants on the grounds of the colour of their skin.

A spokesman for the Commission said: “It is against the law and totally wrong to discriminate against people on the basis of their ethnicity. We have received BBC Inside Out’s findings and will be talking to the property ombudsman and the trade bodies for estate agents to see what can be done urgently to stamp out these unacceptable practices.”
The programme, Inside Out London, was screened in the capital but the story was included in yesterday’s national BBC1 television news, and the programme itself can be viewed anywhere on iPlayer over the next week.

The programme was made after a tip-off alleging that the practice, which is illegal under the Equality Act 2010, was widespread.

A charity, the Runnymede Trust, has also expressed its concern, saying that nearly one-third of black people seeking private rental accommodation had experienced discrimination.

BBC London used a flat in north Kensington. A reporter posing as a landlord asked ten letting agents to assess its value. The ‘landlord’ said he did not want to let the property to African-Caribbean people.

All ten agents were recorded secretly, saying they would be prepared to go along with his request, with a number of them saying they had done so before.

The programme then sent a black ‘tenant’ and a white ‘tenant’ to the agents’ offices. The white ‘tenant’ had no trouble in getting appointments to view, whereas the black ‘tenant’ was told that the property had already gone.

Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust, said: “Many people think the days of landlords hanging ‘No Blacks’ signs outside properties are long gone, but discrimination clearly still exists.”

Peter Bolton King, global residential director of the RICS, condemned the practice as “absolutely disgraceful”.

Ian Potter, managing director of ARLA, said: “Discriminating against tenants based on the colour of their skin is reprehensible, and ultimately illegal. ARLA condemns the practice in the strongest possible terms.”

UKALA executive Caroline Kenny said: “There is no place in today’s lettings market for racial discrimination. Practices such as those uncovered by the BBC are abhorrent and illegal.

“If a letting agent is asked by a client not to show a property to a person on the basis of their ethnic origin, they have an obligation to explain that such activities are unacceptable and refuse their business.

“I would expect a responsible letting agent to dis-instruct themselves from a landlord making such a disgraceful request.”