Flat Adverts That May Be Breaking the Law

Tom de Castella, BBC News, July 2, 2012

“To let” advertisements that specify a particular race or religion are visible in newsagents windows in many areas of London. But are they breaking the law?

Today overt racial discrimination is both illegal and socially unacceptable.

But it is now possible to find advertisements seeking tenants for rented accommodation which specify race, or other characteristics, in a way which some experts believe breaks the law.

Newsagents in different areas of London carry adverts saying:

  • “Double bedroom available… Asian only”
  • “Double room to let Gujarati (Indian) only”
  • Close to the station and bus stops (Filipino only)
  • “Professional single lady or Sri Lanka professional couple”
  • “House for rent… only Asian families”

And even on the Gumtree website you can find the occasional advert for flats in London and Birmingham specifying race.

The newsagents or online adverts are not common but they are easy to find in London in particular.

Most people understand that racial discrimination in jobs or education is both unacceptable and illegal. It’s a position reinforced by the 2010 Equality Act, covering England, Wales and Scotland, which defines race in terms of both ethnicity and nationality. The same applies to religion – “Christian only” or “Muslim only” are both unacceptable.

It is illegal to seek a Polish architect, for example. But an employer would be able to call for an architect who speaks Polish or is familiar with Polish culture.

In the same way, landlords who specify a certain race are breaking the law, legal experts say. In 2009 the BBC found that letting agents in Lincolnshire were excluding migrant workers at the request of landlords. It was covert discrimination and breached the Race Relations Act 1976.

But in London at least you can find adverts specifying race openly displayed. Examples were not immediately apparent in Glasgow, Cardiff, Leicester or Bradford.

They only represent a small proportion of flat ads but it’s hard to imagine even a single similar advert saying “whites only” not drawing complaints.

But when contacted by the BBC, advertisers were taken aback to hear they might be breaking the law. A woman who placed a “Filipino only” advert in a newsagent in Golders Green, north London, explains: “I’m sorry about that. All the people here are Filipino so we need Filipinos.”

An advertiser in Tooting, south London, seeking a “Muslim family” is disappointed that the law may not allow for religious preference. “We are Muslim and it’s a flatshare. What can I say? Everyone has his own preferences. OK?”

Diet is a commonly cited reason. The author of a “Gujarati (Indian) only” ad says: “I’m a vegetarian and I don’t like meat in the kitchen.”

An advertiser in Perry Barr, Birmingham, who put an ad on Gumtree for a “student room (Asian females only)” defends the wording: “We have done that because we are Asians and live in.”

A number of those contacted refused to discuss the wording of their adverts.

The Equality Act says: “A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.” But how this might apply to flat adverts is yet to be tested in court and there is disagreement over the application.

There are three different groups who typically place flat adverts – landlords or agents letting a property, live-in landlords letting part of their property and tenants looking for housemates.

Dr Nuno Ferreira, an expert in discrimination law at the University of Manchester, believes that all these groups are covered.

“It doesn’t make any difference if the landlord lives in the premises or not. This distinction will have a bearing on discrimination on other grounds, but not in relation to race or ethnicity.” The same applies to tenants looking for a housemate, he believes.

Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association, is less sure. “It is not clear whether tenants who do the same are breaking the law or not, although such behaviour is discriminatory against other potential housemates,” he says. “Tenants looking for new housemates should focus on describing the house’s current occupants so that potential applicants can judge for themselves whether they would be a suitable fit or not.”

The Equality Act appears to support Ferreira’s view that everyone is covered. Explanatory notes published with the act say that section 33 “…makes it unlawful for a person who has the authority to dispose of premises (for example, by selling, letting or subletting a property) to discriminate against or victimise someone else in a number of ways including by offering the premises to them on less favourable terms; by not letting or selling the premises to them or by treating them less favourably.”

But housing law expert Daniel Fitzpatrick, associate solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, argues it’s “ambiguous”. In general, housing legislation does not include live-in landlords and tenants, so it depends whether the Equality Act goes further, he says.

The idea that the law should dictate how landlords advertise a property is a step too far for some people. “We’ve become too politically correct about these things,” says Anil Bhanot, managing trustee of the Hindu Council UK. “If people have choices let them.”

To demand “Indian only” is a mistake, he says, but there is nothing negative about expressing a preference.

“It could be people are looking for someone with whom they have more common interests. It’s not that they can’t live with an English person.”

There’s a danger these adverts could create anger and division, argues David Goodhart, director of think tank Demos.

“It would cause amazing outrage if it’s happening on any scale and not moved against very sharply. People would think there’s one law for the ethnic majority and one law for various ethnic minorities.”

A Gumtree spokesman says the site does not allow discriminatory adverts: “We have strict rules in place to ensure that ads meet the guidelines set out by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission. The rules on race equality, gender equality and the Race Relations act are clearly advertised across the site, and specifically on the ‘Flatshare posting rules’ page. Any adverts found to be breaking these rules are removed.”

So is prosecution likely in the case of flat adverts specifying race?

An Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) spokeswoman says it has written to lettings agents in the past to explain that “usually they cannot specify that a prospective tenant is British, Asian or otherwise.”

The commission says that discrimination in flat let adverts may go far wider than race alone. While adverts specifying ethnicity are not common, those that say “female only” or “male only” are widespread.

These also may now be against the law.

“Women-only ads may be against the law unless it can be objectively justified,” the EHRC says. “For example, it is usually justifiable for a domestic violence shelter to offer beds to only women or only men for their personal safety.”

The same principle applies to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion, and sexual orientation.

So “gay flatmate wanted” may be equally illegal.

Not everything is off limits though. “Those characteristics do not include vegetarianism,” the spokeswoman explains.

There’s no getting away from the fact that people want to live with likeminded people. But can that be allowed to mean people of the same ethnicity or religion? And even if there was a crackdown on discriminatory ads, would people not just subtly choose the ethnic group they wanted anyway, perhaps using prompts and coded terms?

There’s a need for flexibility in how discrimination law is applied as some groups are more vulnerable than others, says Penny Anderson, author of the Renter Girl blog. “A landlord saying no to a Muslim woman is wrong. But I think a group of Muslim women turning down a white man is OK.”

Initially, Bhanot is in favour of everyone being able to state a preference over the nationality or race of their chosen tenant. So should this apply to people saying “white only”? “Yes, it’s got to be allowed.”

On reflection though, he believes this might cause minorities to complain of discrimination. “This is a tricky thing. So maybe no-one should say it,” he wonders aloud.

Goodhart argues that stating any racial preference on a public notice is unacceptable. “There are certain anti-discrimination absolutes. Colour-blind liberalism has got to cut both ways. Otherwise it’s a gift to those who feel totally disaffected by how multiculturalism is being managed.”

But people can simply get around the law by placing an advert on a site catering for their own group, be it students, Indians or feminists. They can put a notice up in a foreign language, thus excluding anyone who can’t read Hebrew, Bengali or Polish, for example. They can also simply wait for the responses and filter applicants.

It’s true, says Goodhart. “Hypocrisy is better than overt, public racial preference.”

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  • Spartan24708

    We used to rent our basement and the way we got around these sorts of ridiculous rules was to say the basement was already rented when someone we didn’t want to rent to replied to the ad. There were a couple of very strange phone calls that we were sure were people trying to trip us up to make us say we wouldn’t rent to them. One was a gay man who asked if we minded if he dressed in drag and had his boyfriend over. Another one used a very fake accent. These calls followed a series of television commercials where a white man called advertisements for apartments using various minority sounding names such as  Reginald Washington, Juan Martinez ect with the answering party saying that the apartment was already rented. When he used the name Graham Wellington he was told the apartment was available and he was welcome to apply. I think the law is a little more lax here in the US about who you rent to if you are renting a room in your house or will be sharing a house. If you are a landlord who doesn’t live in the same residence the usual rules apply. 

    • The__Bobster

      That won’t work if the government is out to get you, and your unit contains four or more apartments. They’ll call back later using White testers and if you say the apartment is still available, you’re toast.

      And they use your tax money to finance your entrapment and prosecution.

      • Spartan24708

        If I read the article right it seems like this was a case of people renting rooms in a home that they planned on living in or sharing an apartment. It is a slightly different situation if a person owned a four-plex and didn’t live on site. I can see where someone who is a vegetarian might not want to have meat in his or her kitchen and a group of women (no matter what the religious preference) might not want to share an apartment with a man, no matter how nice he might be. We always specified something like “prefer over 30” since we had a bad experience with a pair of 20yo kids who hogged the bathroom and kitchen and played loud hip-hop music at all hours of the day and night. 

      • anarchyst

        When  “testers” are used to “prove” housing “discrimination”  whites must be used to protray whites and blacks must be used as black testers.  It is an innate human ability that one can tell (by voice alone) whether a person is black or white.
        The best way to avoid the whole “discrimination” mess is to use informal methods of selection and avoid public advertising . . .

    • I had a bunch of Arabs call about my room for rent. Not a chance in hell I would ever allow those people into my house. I just made up some BS and wouldn’t answer when they called.

    • Dan

      Simply ask for  a list of personal references, the first and last months rent in advance along with a damage deposit equal to a months rent. Most likely you will never hear from them again.

      • Spartan24708

        If you ask for references make sure you ask for the last place they lived and possibly the place before that. If someone is being dishonest they will get a friend or family member to use as a reference so be aware of that. Another person I knew asked for a reference and then asked the reference for a number of someone else who knew the same person. 

  • ncpride

    Blah, blah, blah….. All these ‘opinions’, legal maneuvers and discussions are completely pointless. No amount of indoctrination, hand wringing, forced intergration or laws, will keep people from wanting to be with and live around their own. It is human nature, and it really IS that simple. Get over it and leave people alone. ALL people that is, and not just their pet minorities.

    “We are Muslim and it’s a flatshare. What can I say? Everyone has his own preferences. OK?”

    We agree, so therefore I’m sure you understand that Christian Eueropens would prefer you vacate their homelands, and leave them to their preferences. OK?

  • IstvanIN

    Even in NJ you can discriminate when renting a room in your house or apartment or if you are renting an apartment in an owner occupied two or three family house.  Even if we assume an apartment complex shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate (I think they should be allowed) it is insane to think that you have to take anyone or anything into your actual home as a roommate/flatmate/apartment mate/house mate.  In an intimate living situation one should discriminate in order to have a safe, comfortable living environment.  The Brits are insane.

  • Since when has a black only sign ever been needed?

  • alastairabbacle

    These non-whites are so logical….
    “I’m sorry about that. All the people here are Filipino so we need Filipinos.”An advertiser in Tooting, south London, seeking a “Muslim family” is disappointed that the law may not allow for religious preference. “We are Muslim and it’s a flatshare. What can I say? Everyone has his own preferences. OK?”

    • I have been discriminated against numerous times when looking for a room to rent in my own country. I have looked at many places and said ‘looks good, where do I sign up? I’ve got the money’ and in response I always get something like ‘We have many people looking at the room so we’ll let you know’ meaning we don’t want you living here. As a white man, I have given up looking for any roomshares. I will only rent from legitimate apts. or other managed rentals.

      • alastairabbacle

        Always remember,
        Discrimination is good for us too. We must simply act as the minorities do, and not envy them for it.

      • Spartan24708

        The only thing I can think of was that you were too “straight” for them. I don’t mean in the sexual orientation way but you were probably too conservative or in some other way not a fit for the house. You are right to rent apartments or through other managed companies, you have your privacy and don’t have to worry about issues with getting along with roommates. 

    • MartelC


      All the people here are Filipino so we need Filipinos.””
       I have better solution… Filipinos go back to, well, the Philippines , and we’ll leave England for English… 

  • “We are Muslim and it’s a flatshare. What can I say? Everyone has his own preferences. OK?”

    Whites are not allowed to have such a preference.

    Authorities are in a catch-22. If they don’t prosecute non-whites, the double standard will be too much to ignore. If they do prosecute non-whites, non-whites will claim it’s part of their unique heritage and that they’re being persecuted for being who they are.

    My guess is that they’ll give non-whites a pass and prosecute whites to the fullest extent.

    • I W

      Dead on SB.

      says Penny Anderson, author of the Renter Girl blog. “A landlord saying no to a Muslim woman is wrong. But I think a group of Muslim women turning down a white man is OK.”

      There is your answer right there. “It is okay to discriminate against whites and only against whites.”

    • KenelmDigby

      You are absolutely right.
      Any White lanlord who even dared to advertise for ‘Whites only’ would be prosecuted forthwith.

  • ageofknowledge

    Reverse racism is alive and well.

    • I W

      No, it is the same long seated racism that they have always felt toward whites.
      The only ‘reverse’ of it is that We are punished by the Law for ‘racism’ while they are ‘celebrated’.

    • Orion_Blue

      It isn’t reverse racism. It is racism from those with the upper hand.

      The preference to be around your own is innate and inevitable; the only difference is that those who would squat on the rewards and efforts of others are granted entitlement to do so, whereas those of us who would like our country back, are marginalised and deemed ‘unacceptable’.

      The more this gets out, the better.

  • The Equality Act says….The Race Relations Act says…..blah blah blah. Why assume these foreigners know of or care about these laws? They are not English. Where they come from, discrimination is the norm. Equality is not even a term. The problem clearly lies with these people living in England. I used to see similar ads all over Sydney when I was looking for a room to rent. ‘Asian only’ was everywhere. Recently, I tried to post an ad on craiglist for a room available and it would not allow me to use the words ‘women’ or ‘female’. I would love to put an ad for whites only. But what about all these Asian lawbreakers? Why aren’t they paying the penalty?

    • kjh64

      “Why assume these foreigners know of or care about these laws? They are not English. Where they come from, discrimination is the norm. Equality is not even a term.”

      Absolutely true. I’ve been around plenty of non-Whites and traveled a lot. In much of the non-White world, equality isn’t an issue. Non-Whites openly discriminate against anyone not of their nationality/racial/religious group when it comes to hiring, renting, immigration or anything else, yet they demand non-discrimination with Whites.

  • Sherman_McCoy

    Actually, as a white, I would welcome adverts such as these as a warning of places whites should not want to rent.

  • KenelmDigby

    Substitute the word ‘nation’ for ‘flat’. Even suggesting that Whites wish to refuse settlement rights to third-worlders because of a preference for their own kind is , according to the political class, the ultimate evil.
     The irony is that the third worlders – whom the politicians invited in under these rules – have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about being racially prejudiced and exclusive whilst taking advantage of a foolish nation that refused to discriminate against them in the first place.

    Once the third world takes over Britain (which it assuredly will), this will get only more and more blatant.

  • Audieleon

    Advertise WHITE ONLY wondering wondering LOL

  • In accordance with the law, when I look for housemates, I don’t specify race. Instead, I allow undesirables to waste their time speaking to me by phone and then visit the place to look at it – only to hear that somebody else won the spot or something like that. The law isn’t protecting them; it’s wasting their time.

    • I’ve never rented out an apartment but I have rented and I was discriminated openly by a man who told me he didn’t rent to young people (I had just gotten out of college).

      The trick here is not to dismiss them out of hand. Tell them you’re collecting applications and show them a stack of applications that you have. Let them know they’re not the only one inquiring about the apartment.

      Also, there a liberal-do-gooder group in western NY called HOME, Housing Opportunities Made Equal. They provide a politically correct application form with useful and legal means to check an applicants background including contacting past landlords. Ask them to fill out a form on a background check and let them know you’re going to confirm the information. (Be careful they ‘re not giving you names of friends and family as fake references)

      Just don’t ever lie outright that someone else took the apartment when they didn’t. That’s how most people seem to get into trouble.

      Just get a large enough pool of people where you can select the best fit for you.

  • Orion_Blue

    The answer to this KGB-style entrapment is to simply scrap all the “anti-discrimination” laws and let people choose freedom of association.

    If squatting ethnics are deemed ‘entitled’ to land in a foreign country and claim it as their own, then subsequently choose who to let property to, then why don’t WE choose the ultimate sanction and censure, by translating residential domicile to something a little more universal – how about Nation for starters? Then, hopefully, we can start thinking about Continent, too.

  • kjh64

    “An advertiser in Tooting, south London, seeking a “Muslim family” is disappointed that the law may not allow for religious preference. “We are Muslim and it’s a flatshare. What can I say? Everyone has his own preferences. OK?””

    You’re right. I have a preference that Muslims not be allowed into the USA.

  • TonyWestfield

    This article is proof that George Orwell is still alive and writing parodies of Orwellian New-speak for the BBC under the alias “Tom de Castella”…

    The Equality Act
    The Race Relations Act
    The UK Equality and Human Rights Commission

    Really???

    Oh, and let’s not forget the Orwellian sleight-of-hand in having a fellow named “Goodhart” — invoking the concept of a good heart — who is a purveyor of mindless notions in his role at the “think tank” known as Demos.

    Only a skilled writer of fiction could portray such a grotesque and twisted version of humanity.  Thank heaven, none of this is real!

  • Spartan24708

    I saved that application on my computer. Right now we are renting the entire house and moving out of state so we are using an agency that was recommended by the Air Force base in the area. They will not even rent to anyone who has ever had a felony or any sort of drug charge so this would probably eliminate many minorities. We figured that we would use a professional this time since we will not be living out of state.

  • loyalwhitebriton

    In Britain during the 60’s and early 70’s it was common to see “No Blacks or Irish” signs in the windows of B&B’s and other rooms to rent. These signs were deemed racist, and legislation was brought in to stop the practise.
    Now we have “Asian Only” signs, yet where are the prosecutions?
    Enoch Powell (the best Prime Minister we never had) spoke of the Black man having the “Whip Hand” over the White man. And this is it, prophecy fulfilled!
    Minority groups now have dominion over us. They are the first-class citizens, we come second (or even third!). 

  • .

    “It would cause amazing outrage if it’s happening on any scale and not
    moved against very sharply. People would think there’s one law for the
    ethnic majority and one law for various ethnic minorities.”

    Isn’t there?

     It’s true, says Goodhart. “Hypocrisy is better than overt, public racial preference.”

    And there is plenty of hypocrisy among those watch dog groups and agencies who enforce non discrimination.

  • “This house is run by military discipline. Reveille is at 0600 seven days a week. Cleanliness inspection will be at 0620. Lights-out at 2200. Common areas will be cleaned as a team on Saturdays. No alcohol, drugs or smoking. Violations will result in a lawsuit for breach of contract.”

  • WhiteGuyInJapan

     Very common in Asia.  I saw ads for apartments in Singapore that stated “Caucasians Accepted” or “Asians Only”.   The web listing for my current apartment in Japan states “Foreigners OK”.  (Like a dog!) 

    That’s just how it is here.  Only silly Whites believe in all that “equality” nonsense.

  • WR the Elder

    If I was a landlord I’d just put up this ad, “Apartment for rent, must love chamber music.”