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Step 1: check if you’re protected by the Equality Act

This advice applies to England

Not every housing situation is covered by Part 4 of the Equality Act 2010.

There are different rules for:

If you’re not sure if your housing situation is covered by Part 4 of the Equality Act 2010, you can check the rules in section 32(2) and (4).

If the person treating you unfairly or their relative also lives in the home

If it’s race discrimination, it doesn’t matter who else is living in the home or accommodation - you’ll still be covered by discrimination law.

If it's any other type of discrimination you won't be covered if your home or the home you’re hoping to rent or buy counts as ‘small premises’ under the Equality Act 2010. This exception applies if you share it with the person discriminating against you or their relative. This person is called a ‘resident’ in the Equality Act 2010.

For example, if you’re a lodger and share a kitchen or a bathroom with your landlord’s daughter (the resident) you won’t be covered by the Equality Act 2010.

The small premises exception doesn’t apply if you only share storage areas and means of access.

A relative means the landlord’s or property owner’s:

  • spouse or civil partner
  • unmarried partner
  • parent or grandparent
  • child or grandchild (and the child or grandchild’s spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner)
  • brother or sister

It also includes relatives ‘in law’ of the above people - for example the daughter-in-law of your landlord would count as a relative.

The home counts as small premises if:

  • there are at least two households living there - yours and the resident’s household
  • it can’t accommodate more than three households in total

It also counts as small premises if it can’t accommodate more than 6 other people (apart from the resident’s household).

These rules are called the ‘small premises exception’ and are covered in Schedule 5, paragraph 3 of the Equality Act 2010.

If someone is stopping you from buying or renting a home

If someone stops you because of your race it’s always against the law.

If someone stops you for another reason, it won’t be against the law if both:

  • the person selling or renting the home owns it and lives there - this is called being an ‘owner occupier’
  • they haven’t listed the property with an estate agent or put adverts up in public places

These rules are called the ‘owner occupier (private disposal) exception’ and are covered in Schedule 5, paragraph 1 of the Equality Act 2010.

If you’ve seen an advert for a home that discriminates against someone, you can report it to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. For example, you might see an online advert that says only women can rent a flat.

Check why you’re being treated unfairly

The law says you can't be treated unfairly or differently if it’s connected to who you are, like being a woman or being disabled. This is called having a ‘protected characteristic’ in the Equality Act 2010.

You also can’t be treated unfairly because:

  • you challenged discrimination before
  • of someone else's protected characteristic
  • someone thinks you have a protected characteristic, but you don’t

It might not be obvious how the unfair treatment is linked to a protected characteristic. For example, your landlord might not want to rent to you if you’re a single parent. This could be discrimination against women because they’re more likely to be single parents.

The protected characteristics in Part 4 of the Equality Act 2010 are:

Disability

You’re covered for a disability you have now and any you’ve now recovered from. A disability could be physical or mental - you could be covered even if you don’t consider yourself disabled.

You should check if your disability is covered by the Equality Act 2010.

Disability is defined in section 6 of the Equality Act 2010.

Gender reassignment

The law covers ‘gender reassignment’ - this means if you’re transgender.

You’re covered if you:

  • are planning to transition - you don’t need to have had any medical treatment
  • are in the process of transitioning
  • have already transitioned

If you identify as non-binary but you aren’t transitioning, you might be covered but the law is complicated. You’ll need to get specialist advice before you go any further.

Gender reassignment is defined in section 7 of the Equality Act 2010.

Pregnancy and maternity

You’re covered by the law if you’re pregnant.

You’re also covered in the 26 weeks after you give birth, including stillbirths. This is called the ‘protected period’.

If it’s more than 26 weeks after you gave birth, you might still be able to claim sex discrimination.

Pregnancy and maternity is defined in section 17 of the Equality Act 2010.

Race

This includes your:

  • colour - for example if you’re black or white
  • nationality
  • ethnic origin - for example if you’re a Romany Gypsy
  • national origin - this could be different from your nationality, for example if your family is from India but you have a British passport

Race is defined in section 9 of the Equality Act 2010.

Religion or belief

This includes:

  • belonging to an organised religion, for example if you’re Jewish
  • having a religious belief, for example you need to pray at certain times
  • having no religion, such as being an atheist
  • your philosophical beliefs, like being a pacifist

Religion or belief is defined in section 10 of the Equality Act 2010.

Sex

This is whether you’re a man or a woman.

If you identify as non-binary but you aren’t transitioning, you might be covered but the law is complicated. You’ll need to get specialist advice before you go any further.

Sex is defined in section 11 of the Equality Act 2010.

Sexual orientation

You’re covered if you’re gay, a lesbian, straight or bisexual. It includes how you choose to express your sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation is defined in section 12 of the Equality Act 2010.

If you’ve been harassed

You can’t take action for harassment under Part 4 of the Equality Act 2010 if you were harassed because of your:

  • sexual orientation

  • religion or belief

If you've been harassed because of pregnancy and maternity, you can't take action under harassment law but you might be able to argue that you've been harassed because of your sex (because you're female).

If your problem is about more than one protected characteristic

You can take action about more than one, or choose the ones you think you have the best evidence for.

If you take action about a combination of protected characteristics, you'll have to make your case for each one separately. For example, if you’re being discriminated against because you’re a black woman you’d have to list race discrimination and sex discrimination separately in your claim.

If your problem isn't to do with your own protected characteristic

It could still be discrimination if you’re treated unfairly because:

  • of someone else’s protected characteristic
  • someone thinks you’ve got a protected characteristic, but you don’t

You won’t be protected by Part 4 of the Equality Act if the discrimination is about:

  • age
  • marriage or civil partnership

If you’re treated unfairly because you complained about discrimination before

It could still be discrimination even if the unfair treatment isn’t about your protected characteristic. If you challenged or helped someone else challenge discrimination before it could be a type of discrimination called ‘victimisation’.

Next steps

If the Equality Act 2010 doesn’t cover your situation you might still be able to complain about your private landlord  or complain about social housing.

If you think you’re covered by the Equality Act 2010 you can move on to step 2.  

Previous Step 2
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