Discrimination in housing – eviction because of rent arrears
This information applies to Scotland.
The Equality Act 2010 says someone managing premises including public and private landlords mustn’t discriminate against you if they want to evict you because of rent arrears. In particular, if you are disabled your landlord must take steps to make sure you’re not disadvantaged because of your disability.
Read this page to find out more about unlawful discrimination if you’re in rent arrears.
Have you suffered unlawful discrimination?
Discrimination which breaches the terms of the Equality Act is unlawful. If you can show that there has been discrimination you can take legal action under civil procedures.
If you think you’ve been discriminated against by your landlord and you want to take action about it, you should try to check whether the discrimination is unlawful. You may need to discuss this with an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Discrimination involving incidents of malice and ill-will towards you are classed as hate crime. The police take incidents of hate crime very seriously. To check information on hate crime to see if you have been treated with serious prejudice and ill will see Hate crime.
How might your landlord discriminate against you
You’re disabled and your landlord hasn’t followed the proper eviction procedure
If your landlord wants to evict you because of rent arrears and you are disabled, they must follow a specific procedure before taking court action.
There are extra protections for public sector tenants of public sector landords.
If your landlord doesn’t follow the correct procedure you could be subjected to some type of disadvantage. This will depend on who you are and what part of the procedure has not been followed properly.
In addition, the landlord may also be in breach of their duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act. The Act says your landlord must make reasonable adjustments if you’re disabled and you have asked them to make these adjustments. For example, they may be required to take extra time to explain things to you or send you notices or rent statements in a format you can read.
If the landlord does know about your disability but continues to try to evict you evidence will have to be given to support the landlord’s case. The landlord will have to show that there were good reasons to want to evict you, for example, because you had broken the law or were behaving in an antisocial manner. If there are no reasons other than rent arrears a court may not find in favour of the landlord if the correct procedures have not been followed.
Public sector tenants
If you are a public sector tenant you will usually have extra legal protection about the process the landlord must use to evict you for rent arrears even if you don’t have a disability.
You have been disadvantaged because of something connected to your disability
If you’re disabled, your landlord is under a legal duty to consider whether your disability has contributed to your rent arrears problem. This is in addition to the requirement on the landlord to follow a particular procedure.
If your landlord knows you are disabled but hasn’t taken your disability into account when dealing with your rent arrears this could mean you’ve suffered a disadvantage, under the Equality Act. If so it could be discrimination arising from disability.
Discrimination arising from disability is where you’re discriminated against because of something connected to your disability rather than your disability itself.
You have supported accommodation in a housing association. Recently the landlord contacted you regarding your rent arrears and you agreed a payment plan. You have a learning disability and you didn’t understand the information they sent you about how to make the payments. The landlord thought you did understand. Your payments did not go to the correct bank account.
You’ve now received a notice of eviction from the housing association as they haven’t received your payments but because they explained the process to you they don’t accept your explanation as to why your payments went astray. You have been called to attend a possession hearing in court.
This could be discrimination arising from disability if the housing association knew about your disability. Your difficulty understanding detailed information is something which is connected to your disability and the landlord should have been more careful in advising you.
In some cases a landlord may be able to justify discriminating against you if they can show a good enough reason for treating you unfavourably. It’s more difficult for a landlord to justify discrimination if they haven’t complied with their duty to make reasonable adjustments.
You think your landlord is evicting you because of who you are
If you’re in rent arrears, your landlord usually has the right to evict you under housing law. However, the Equality Act says they mustn’t discriminate against you when evicting you or taking steps to evict you. This means that if the actual reason your landlord wants to evict you is because of your protected characteristic, it could be unlawful discrimination.
You live in a privately rented flat. Recently you had some money problems and you were unable to pay all of your rent for a couple of months. At the time your landlord was very understanding. It was agreed that you could stay in the flat and pay a reduced rent provided it didn’t last for more than a couple of months. Your financial problems have now been resolved and you’ve almost repaid all the rent arrears.
However, a couple of weeks ago your landlord discovered you’re gay. Since then he’s become very hostile towards you and has now told you he wants you to leave. Yesterday, you received notice to leave the flat because of rent arrears.
It seems here that the real reason your landlord wants you to leave is because you’re gay, as he didn’t have a problem with your rent arrears before. You might reasonably feel that this is direct discrimination because you are gay. Your sexual orientation is a protected characteristic so you would have to prove that the eviction was for that reason and not the rent arrears which are nearly cleared.
If your landlord has discriminated against you, you can take action under the Equality Act.
For example, you may be able to resolve the problem by talking informally to your landlord or you can make a formal complaint. If court proceedings have started you can raise the discrimination issue in front of the court. If a possession order has been made against you, it may be possible to have the order set aside because of unlawful discrimination. If you can’t attend court and a possession order is granted you can go back to court and recall the court order.
If you’re facing eviction you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Public sector equality duty
A public sector landlord like a local authority or a housing association must make sure they consider how their policies and practices affect people who are protected under the Equality Act. This is called the public sector equality duty.
If you think a policy or practice discriminates against you, you can use the equality duty to strengthen your discrimination case. You can also make a separate complaint or court claim saying the local authority or housing association has failed to consider their equality duty in the way they have behaved towards you when evicting you.
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 www.equalityhumanrights.com.