‘To let’ adverts often specify that a flatmate should be from a preferred ethnic group or have a particular sexual orientation.
However human rights experts have warned that under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for someone letting or sub-letting a property to “discriminate against or victimize” interested parties based on their religion, race, age, marital status, sexuality or physical ability.
This means that any ‘to let’ adverts that specify that a lodger should be gay, single or from a particular country fall foul of the law.
Dr Nuno Ferreira, an expert in discrimination law at the University of Manchester, said that the act covers adverts placed by absentee landlords, letting agents, live-in landlords and tenants looking for housemates.
“It doesn’t make a difference if the landlord lives in the premises or not,” Dr Ferriera told the BBC.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said that under the Equality Act it is illegal for a person who is renting out a room to treat one group of people less favourably than another group of people.
A spokesman for the watchdog said that if an advert was placed in a newsagent or a magazine specifically asking for a gay flatmate, for example, then somebody could validly make a complaint to the commission.
Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association, said: “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.”