Race rears its head again in landlords’ advertisements

August 21, 2012

Landlords Insurance

A story that has received a fair amount of press cover over recent weeks, relates to racial bias in landlords’ advertisements for tenants.

Surprisingly, this time the issue is arising not in terms of discrimination against ethnic minorities but rather in favour of them, thereby discriminating against other potential tenants who may actually be the majority of the population.

One such example is shown in the attached article* but the story has been covered in several other media sources.

This is, of course, a particularly tricky issue.

There appears to be little doubt that advertisements specifying that only applications from members of a specified ethnic group or religion will be considered, are most likely to be against a number of racial discrimination laws.  The difficulty is, of course, that forcing controversial phraseology to be removed from a property vacancy advertisement does not, in itself, remove the discrimination behind it.

Presumably nobody is naïve enough to believe that forcing someone to change the wording of an ad is going to stop the landlord involved being discriminatory in their selection processes.

This issue is not a million miles away from other controversial subjects in the insurance industry, including recent decisions to ban discrimination in terms of positive pricing for female policyholders with motor insurance or those landlord policies that provide a cheap landlords insurance quote that won’t cover certain categories of tenants such as DSS recipients or students etc.

Is it permissible to discriminate based upon a person’s current educational or social status but not their gender or religion?

In terms of landlords selecting based on racial, ethnic or religious origins, unless as a society we are prepared to set up and fund statistical sampling of landlords’ tenants on a national basis, it may be difficult or even impossible to ever be sure that inappropriate selection criteria are not being applied.  The costs and conceptual difficulties of doing any such thing appear to be prohibitive.

Of course, what is required is a degree of human social maturity that ends up reaching a healthy stage whereby one of two things apply:

  • nobody would ever dream of advertising for tenants of a specific ethnic origin or religion because such things are seen as being irrelevant or;
  • nobody would care very much if they did because it would be recognised as being their inalienable human right to do so, even whilst being silly and juvenile at the same time.

Few subjects have been so painful for society to get to grips with over the past 50 or 60 years in the United Kingdom.

Sadly, we appear to be some way off of reaching a position whereby the subject matter is no longer considered even important enough to justify further discussion.





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