Challenging an eviction with discrimination law
The first thing you need to do is make sure your discrimination problem is covered by the Equality Act.
You’ll then need to decide the best way to use the law to challenge the eviction and gather evidence to help you make your case.
You can still try to resolve the problem informally even when your landlord’s started the eviction process - you might be able to get a solution before your case goes to court.
Get legal help
You should try to find a legal adviser who’ll help with your own specific situation. They can help to explain the court processes, prepare your case and represent you.
Your local Citizens Advice might be able to help you to find someone.
Check if you can get free legal aid - this covers free legal advice and sometimes legal representation. It can sometimes also cover your court costs too.
You can also find more affordable legal help.
You might be able to get the court fees reduced or you might not have to pay any if:
you’re on a low income or you get benefits and
you have little or no savings
If you can’t find a legal adviser, you’re allowed to represent yourself. These pages will show you the main steps, including the most common court rules you need to follow.
If you're making a counterclaim
You can only make a counterclaim for any other incidents of discrimination if they happened in the last 6 months.
The court needs to receive your counterclaim 6 months less one day after the discrimination happened. You'd normally include your counterclaim in your defence form.
For example if the discrimination last happened on 12 March, the court needs to get your form by 11 September. If your deadline falls at the weekend or on a bank holiday, it's best to take action on the last working day before the deadline to be sure your claim is made in time.
The date you were discriminated against could be when someone:
made a decision - for example the date your landlord refused your request to make a reasonable adjustment
discriminated against you by refusing to rent a property to you
If you have more than one counterclaim, you might have different deadlines for each one. Check all the dates you were discriminated against and work out the deadlines for each counterclaim.
If you asked for reasonable adjustments it can be hard to work out the date to start counting from. Check how to work out time limits for reasonable adjustments.
If you miss the deadline, you might be able to make a counterclaim if the court thinks it's fair - this is known as 'just and equitable'. They might consider things like the reason for the delay, the length of the delay and how it might affect the other side.
You'd need to put why you think it is ‘just and equitable’ to allow your counterclaim late in your defence form when you say you want to make a counterclaim. The law about this is in section 118 of the Equality Act 2010.
If the discrimination happened more than once
You’ll need to work out whether the different incidents could be classed as ‘continuing’ over a period of time. This is where they’re linked to each other, for example if your landlord uses homophobic language to describe you on several occasions or continue to apply a discriminatory policy to you.
If the incidents are linked, the law calls them a 'continuing series of acts' or a 'continuing act' and time only begins to run when the last act is completed. This is covered in section 118(6)(a) of the Equality Act 201
If the incidents aren't linked, you’ll need to make separate discrimination claims with different deadlines. For example if your landlord made a racist comment and the letting agent made a sexist comment, they might not be the same continuing act. You should then use the earliest date as your deadline.
- the last incident is definitely discrimination - if it’s not and this means you made a late claim, the court could reject your case
- there’s a long gap between the different incidents - if they’re far apart, they might not be one continuing act
If you’re not sure of the date, it’s usually best to use the earliest date. If you use a later date for the deadline, the court could decide that the later incident wasn’t discrimination or that the acts aren’t linked and you wouldn’t have time to make a new counterclaim.
If a local council, housing association or other public body has discriminated against you
In addition to a discrimination claim, you might be able to make:
a public law claim
a claim using the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)
Check how strong your case is
You should assess how strong your case is and reconsider this when you get any evidence from the other side.
You should make sure that you:
have identified your legal rights
have shown how those legal rights have been breached
know the elements that must be established to prove you’ve got a legal right - this is different for each type of discrimination so check if you're not sure
You should write down the different elements of the case and add the facts that you have to support them. You can then write down whether you have any evidence to support those facts - like an email saying why you’re being evicted.
Doing this will also to help you work out what extra evidence you might need to get to be able to prove your case and identify any gaps or weaknesses in your case.
If you’re claiming more than one type of discrimination
You’ll need to do this for each one. Sometimes you'll be able to use the same evidence to show the different types of discrimination. For example, you might be able to use the same facts and evidence to show a claim of discrimination arising from disability as well as a failure to make reasonable adjustments.
Check if there’s any defence to the discrimination
Once you’ve matched the evidence you have to the elements of each type of discrimination, you should think about whether your landlord, property manager or controller will try to defend the case even if you can prove that the discrimination happened.
For indirect discrimination and discrimination arising from disability they could say that the action is justified as it is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. Indirect discrimination is covered in section 19 of the Equality Act 2010 and discrimination arising from disability is covered in section 15 of the Equality Act 2010.
For reasonable adjustments they could say it’s not ‘reasonable’ or that they don’t have to make the adjustments you’ve asked for. Reasonable adjustments are covered by sections 20, 36 and Schedule 4 of the Equality Act 2010.
You should think about anything that will weaken their argument, for example if there’s a less discriminatory way to achieve their aim or if their reasons have been inconsistent so don’t seem credible.
If you identify gaps in your evidence or you think having looked at your evidence and that of your landlord, property manager or controller that they have a stronger case you might decide to gather some more evidence and then reassess your case.
Check how strong your evidence is
You don’t always need to have lots of evidence to have a strong case - it’s usually more important that the evidence is of a good quality.
Strong evidence could include evidence that is:
- from someone who witnessed the discriminatory incident
- from someone who isn’t linked to either party
- put together at the time or soon after the incident
Be careful about making claims or relying on incidents you don't have evidence to support. There’s a risk you might have to cover some or all of the other side's costs if you've wasted court time because your claim wasn't very strong or was bound to fail. There is also risk that it could distract the court’s attention from your stronger arguments. Get help from an adviser if you need help to do this.
Check the court rules you have to follow
If you go to court to defend your eviction, you’ll be expected to follow the rules on court action. These rules include:
- the Civil Procedure Rules
- the Practice Direction - Proceedings under Enactments Relating to Equality
If you or the other side - you’re called ‘the parties’ - don't follow these rules, the court will take this into account when it makes its decision. If you haven't done what you’re supposed to, you might find that:
- your case won't be heard
- you might not be allowed to rely on certain evidence or arguments
- you might be ordered to pay the other side’s legal costs if you lose or run up legal costs unnecessarily by being unreasonable
- you might not recover your costs against the other side if you win the case if you run up legal costs unnecessarily by being unreasonable
The Civil Procedure Rules
The court’s main aim is to make sure that each case is dealt with fairly. If you decide that you want to take someone to court, the court will expect both parties to co-operate with each other as far as possible.
The Civil Procedure Rules are there to make sure that:
- the parties are on an equal footing
- the parties have tried to use other methods of sorting out the problem - like alternative dispute resolution
- the parties try to save costs where possible
- the way the case is dealt with reflects how much money is involved, how important or complicated the problem is and the financial position of the parties
- the case is dealt with quickly, efficiently and fairly - the legal term for this is ‘expeditiously and fairly’
Defend the eviction
There are a few steps in the process. You’ll need to:
take action when you get an eviction notice
complete a defence form
send the defence form
prepare for court
go to a court hearing