Legalities of looking for 'like-minded' flatmates.

(20 Posts)
Cheddars Tue 03-Jul-12 14:24:30

Saw this today and thought of our brand new board.
www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18588612

I'm not sure what I think about it. Obviously it's wrong for landlords to specify a certain race/religion/gender etc in renting their properties, but is it wrong for individuals to have a preference in who they share their homes with?

OldLadyKnowsNothing Tue 03-Jul-12 14:37:08

Hmm, it's an interesting one, isn't it? I think if you're letting a whole property then you don't get to discriminate, but lodgers or flatsharers should feel happy with the people they live with, and shouldn't have to just accept the first applicant. But I understand the point about not wanting to waste the time of people who won't suit... And yet I'm uncomfortable that ads could so blatantly state race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation... confused

To me, there's a difference between renting out a house/flat completely, and renting out a room where you are also living yourself - eg you might reasonably want someone the same gender, or who is also a vegetarian, or keeps strict kosher, if you're going to be sharing a bathroom and kitchen with them. But if you're renting the whole property to them, then that shouldn't be an issue.

Leithlurker Tue 03-Jul-12 15:54:25

I may be a bit more to the pc end of the scale, but I would draw the line at things that cause personasl difficulties. Smokers, meat eaters, male / female in a same sex flat.

Everything else colour, religion, ethnicity should all be open. People need to be able to get on with others in every day life, if a "safe" zone is created with people who are all the same this I would suggest is bad for the individual and society.

nailak Tue 03-Jul-12 16:02:15

But what is the difference? Women need to interact with men in society so why iSnt single sex flat share bad?

Also what is difference between not wanting a smoker and nit wanting someone who eats non halal meat?

Not wanting a flat mate that will complain when they here call to prayer at 4am and when you get up at that time and start cooking during Ramadan?or wanting a flat mate who will be doing this with you?

What is wrong with wanting a flat mate who speaks the same language as you?

EclecticShock Tue 03-Jul-12 19:38:57

Interesting topic. It already happens with "no pets", " no benefits" and "no students etc. As one comment states, the best thing to do might be to deceive your set up so that the prospective tenant has adequate information to decide if the "fit" is right for them. Discrimination exists everywhere, such as when interviewing someone for a job and their English isn't at an acceptable level. I think it only becomes an issue when the majority of adverts are discrimatory against one particular minority and the entire market place is discrimatory and causing people to be homeless.

EclecticShock Tue 03-Jul-12 19:39:37

Not deceive... Describe.

EclecticShock Tue 03-Jul-12 19:41:26

Also, I'm not saying its ok to say "no men", but saying "female preferred" should be acceptable in theory when it's only applied to one room being let in a house or flat.

TheMysteryCat Tue 03-Jul-12 19:54:38

agree that for a whole property let there's no reason why the landlord should get to choose, but think it's absolutely OK for individuals to have a say over who they share with.

it is extremely personal to share a house with someone and if your personalities and interests don't match then it can make for a horrible relationship and horrible homelife.

However, I don't understand why people should be allowed to select based on race or religion only.

I think people should be allowed to discriminate when flatsharing, though it probably would be best if this is done tactfully and discreetly. Your home should be the place where you feel comfortable and indeed the place where you can be a bigoted arsehole if you like. Equally, someone renting out a room in his/her home should be allowed to choose who s/he wants to share with and not be legally obliged to share with someone s/he doesn't much like - anyone who would be prepared to take you to court in order to force you to let them live with you would be a pretty awful housemate.

Cheddars Tue 03-Jul-12 22:00:26

That's the problem though. On an individual, case-by-case basis it's fine to have a preference for a certain type of individual, or in other words, discriminate against other individuals.

However, this can only be acceptable on a personal level, and not as a point of law. If 5 people come to view your flat, you will be always discriminating against 4 of them to choose one.

OddBoots Tue 03-Jul-12 22:06:21

I read it as more the phrasing of the advert, for example 'vegetarian housemate wanted' - wrong. 'housemate wanted for vegetarian household' - fine.

Am I getting it wrong?

Cheddars Tue 03-Jul-12 22:19:04

Oddboots in a court of law those subtleties would make all the difference.

Is it still ok to say 'housemate wanted for indian/christian/gay household'?

It seems to place the Equalities Act directly against the Human Rights Act. The law seems ambiguous about it as well.

TheMysteryCat Tue 03-Jul-12 22:26:23

private households have always been exempt though, haven't they?

same as certain jobs where you can discriminate - acting, female/male carers or support workers etc.

I think the phrasing is important. the first states a need, but may not have a justification; the second states the environment, leaving the person viewing the advert to decide if it's somewhere they'd like to live.

However, what if the second statement didn't say vegetarian, but said: "housemate wanted for BNP supporting household?" Does that affect the way we view it, or have any basis of unreasonable discrimination in law?

I don't know.

I tend to agree with SGB to an extent, but in a culture where sharing is becoming an essential part of getting on the housing ladder/leaving home, it does raise some difficult questions.

EdithWeston Tue 03-Jul-12 22:34:59

You could argue it the other way, if it's say a family taking in a lodger, for the right to a home life is enshrined under Human Rights. So if your home life looks like X, you could say that you have the right to bar anything that conflicts with X.

This tension between society level ideas of equality, and human rights at the personal level is manifesting itself in a number of ways. The wording of an ad (public notice out in wider society) may need to conform to Equalities, but the individual who is already occupying the intimate personal space of the home may well exercise personal free choice in how the ideology of that home is maintained.

EclecticShock Tue 03-Jul-12 22:40:25

Good post Edith.

Yes I think perhaps it's a matter of the wording of an advert - 'room to let in all female household' is probably more sensible than 'Room to let: NO MEN'. In terms of comfort and domestic harmony, it wouldn't be all that unreasonable to post an ad that said 'Room to let in Arsenal supporter household. No (desperately scrabbles around to think of name of other football team as hate football and know nothing about it)... er.... Manchester supporters please.'

I think when it's a matter of flatsharing the issue is not so much making people not discriminate in who they actually choose (because they will, and they do, unless there is a really desperate need to fill the extra bedroom: they've got to live together closely so it's not a good idea to let someone move in who is really noticably and actively different from the rest of the household ie with majorly different daily habits) but in being able to word adverts in such a way as not to waste people's time. If there are several people living together in a vegan household, they won't really want an omnivore living with them, and it would be awkward and uncomfortable for the omnivore to have to eat furtively and put up warning signs all over the place.

HmmThinkingAboutIt Wed 04-Jul-12 20:36:05

When I read the article I had two thoughts:

First people shouldn't be allowed to have preferences and exclude people in the advert.

But and then I had the other thought about the reality of what would actually happen if those types of adverts were banned.

You could end up with a situation even worse.

What you'd end up with, is people still having the same prejudices and not letting out the room or property to people who didn't fit their criteria anyway. And the person you were supposed to stopping the prejudice against would be having their time wasted, facing a potentially difficult situation and finding it harder to find somewhere that actually was suitable.

I think its much more preferable to say something like:
"Alien blue meanie family interested in gnome collecting seek housemate" and give details about yourself to attract the right person rather than be exclusionary, but tbh I'm not sure that a lot of people would be able to cope with wording things in a certain way, perhaps precisely due education or language barriers and maybe enforcing the law in this way would be discriminatory to them in someways too.

People have the right to live a home life in the way they want ultimately.

So, yeah definitely splinters on my bum over this one.

Cheddars Wed 04-Jul-12 23:51:56

Actually, I don't think people should be bigoted even in their own homes. Can we outlaw that? grin

QuacksForDoughnuts Thu 05-Jul-12 20:54:04

As a non-racist predominantly white person I can see the merit in 'whites only' or 'housemate needed for a BNP household', as I would prefer to know in advance that prospective housemates were racist scumbags rather than find out in the first month of a year-long contract that it would cost a bomb to get out of. It would also save people experiencing racism when they phone or turn up for an interview. As a bisexual person with no outward signifiers I would rather know that the people placing the advert were homophobes rather than (as happened a few years ago when I was single) slowly discover it and go through a stupid rigmarole any time I went on a date with a woman because if my housemates found out the hellishness of my life there would go up another notch.

On the more prosaic stuff, I'd rather not waste my time trekking out to houses only to discover that they really want a housemate of a different gender, religion, first language etc. And if I ever found myself needing a houseshare again I would like to be able to express a preference for a female vegetarian who doesn't smoke indoors...

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