Today's expert is Matt Hutchinson, director of the UK's biggest flat and house share website SpareRoom.co.uk
Property rental adverts that suggest only people of a specified race, gender, religion, age or sexuality can apply are discriminatory – so say human rights experts who argue that under the 2010 Equality Act it is illegal.
With demand outstripping supply, there is stiff competition for rented accommodation, meaning those hunting for lodgers or housemates can afford to be picky. What this means is that finding a room in a shared house is now akin to auditioning for X Factor. If you fail to sell yourself and hit it off with the other housemates during a five minute viewing, you can wave goodbye to that room.
But there's a fine line between practical issues, such as a lodger-landlord stating she does not want to live with a smoker or a cat owner, and refusing to consider someone because of their skin colour or nationality. Age is also a contentious issue. Should two 20-year-old flatmates be allowed to state in their ad that someone aged 40+ need not apply for their spare room because it’s unlikely they will have the same interests and expectations?
Sadly, discrimination does exist in some sections of the rental market but in some instances, it is okay to state a preference.
While it is illegal for those selling, letting, subletting or managing property, to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, disability, sexuality or religion, an owner-occupier in a small premises – for example a homeowner letting a room to a lodger – or a shared house with no more than six people, are exempt.
It’s important to remember that this can benefit those flat-hunting too, as it means they don’t waste precious time viewing properties that the other tenants or the owner has no intention of renting to them.
For more information visit the Spare Room website.