Complaining about discrimination in housing
If you’ve experienced discrimination when renting or buying a property, there are different things you can do. For example, you can talk to the person who discriminated against you or you can make a formal complaint to the organisation where they work.
Read this to find out more about how to complain about discrimination in housing.
Before you take action
Check whether discrimination has happened
If you want to make a complaint you need to be reasonably sure that unlawful discrimination has taken place, according to the Equality Act.
Check your housing status
If you’re a tenant, you need to be aware there’s a risk you might lose your home if you take action against your landlord as they might try to evict you. It’s therefore important to check your housing status as some tenancies offer more protection than others against eviction. If you’re renting from a local authority or housing association you generally have more protection from eviction than if you’re renting from a private landlord.
If you’re unsure about your housing status and what action to take, you should get advice from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.
- More about housing status if you’re a private rented tenant
- More about housing status if you’re a social housing tenant
Making an informal complaint
It’s often best to try to resolve your problem informally first. It may stop the problem getting worse and avoid the expense of taking legal action.
You can make an informal complaint first by talking to the person who discriminated against you - for example, your landlord or estate agent.
If you make an informal complaint, it’s a good idea to include the following things in your conversation:
- a description of the service you tried to use
- the names and job titles of the people involved
- a short description of what happened
- the date and time of the incident
- a description of how the incident affected you
- what you want the organisation to do now - for example, apologise or review a decision already taken or offer compensation
- when you expect a reply.
If you talk to your landlord or estate agent informally, it’s best to keep a record of the conversation and make a note of the date. It’s also a good idea to follow up the conversation with a letter recording what was discussed.
Making a formal complaint
If the problem isn’t resolved informally, you can make a formal complaint.
If you want to make a formal complaint you should ask the person or organisation for a copy of their complaints procedure. You may also be able to find this information on the organisation’s website.
If they have a complaints procedure you must follow this. You may have to make your complaint by filling in a specific form or by writing a letter. There will also generally be time limits for making your complaint.
Local authorities and housing associations must have a complaints procedure.
If there’s no complaints procedure
If there’s no complaints procedure, the complaint should be made in writing and sent by recorded delivery if possible. If you don’t send it by recorded delivery, make sure to ask for free certificate of posting when you send the letter. The letter should say what steps you’ve taken to resolve the problem informally and what’s happened as a result of those steps.
What should you include in your written complaint?
If you make a formal written complaint you should include the following things:
- explain what happened - include any relevant dates and times, the names of anyone involved
- say how the discrimination has affected you - for example, that it’s made you feel very upset or that you’ve lost money as a result
- say what you want to happen as a result of the complaint - for example, an apology or a review of the decision that’s been taken
- include your name and contact details.
If an adviser is helping you with the complaint and you want them to advocate on your behalf, you should include their name and contact details in your written complaint. You would also need to attach a letter of authorisation signed by you to show you want the adviser to act for you.
Keep a copy of the letter and write down when you sent it.
The Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) has template letters you can use if you want to complain about discrimination at
If you’ve been discriminated against by a public authority
The law says a public authority is an organisation which provides public services. This can be a public sector organisation, like a local authority but it can also be a private organisation or charity if it carries out public services or functions. For example, a housing association can be a public authority when carrying out some of its functions as a social landlord.
If the organisation that’s discriminated against you is a public authority, you may be able to use human rights law or the public sector equality duty to strengthen your discrimination complaint.
- Taking legal action about discrimination in housing
- Taking action against a public authority about discrimination in housing
- Before you take action about discrimination
- What are human rights?
- What's the public sector equality duty?
Other useful information
Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)
If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website.