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Indirect discrimination in housing

This advice applies to England

Indirect discrimination can be more difficult to spot than direct discrimination. It’s when you’re treated in the same way as everyone else, but it has a worse effect on you because of certain reasons - for example, because you’re Black or gay.

Indirect discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. If you've experienced unlawful discrimination when renting or buying a property, you may be able to do something about it.

Read this page to find out more about indirect discrimination in housing.

When is it indirect discrimination?

The law which says you must not be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. This means you can take action in the civil courts.

Indirect discrimination is when someone like a landlord or estate agent has a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone, but it has a worse effect on some people than others because of who they are.

You can challenge indirect discrimination in housing if something has a worse effect on you because of your:

  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

The Equality Act calls these things protected characteristics.


You’re in a wheelchair and need re-housing because of your disability. Your local authority allocates housing using a choice based letting system which means you need to bid for housing online. You find this very difficult as you also have severe dyslexia and need someone to help you through the bidding process. It’s also difficult for you to travel to your local council regularly to bid for properties.

The choice based letting system applies to everyone who needs social housing. But it’s more difficult for people who share your disability to apply using this system. It therefore places you and other disabled people like you at a disadvantage. This could be indirect discrimination because of your disability.

This could also be discrimination because of something connected to your disability. You’re discriminated against because you find it very difficult to use the online bidding system. This is something which is connected to your disability.

Finally, you could ask the local authority to make reasonable adjustments to help you apply for housing through the choice based letting system.

When is indirect discrimination lawful?

The Equality Act says it’s not indirect discrimination if - for example, your landlord, estate agent or local authority, can show they have a good enough reason for discriminating against you. The law calls this a legitimate aim.

The landlord, estate agent or local authority would need to be able to prove this in court, if necessary. This is known in legal terms as objective justification.

Next steps

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 at

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