Court rules landlord's ban of 'coloured' tenants is unlawful

Friday 10 November 2017

Bethan Harris represented the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in its case against private landlord Fergus Wilson. An injunction was ordered preventing him from discriminating on grounds of race.

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The Commission used its enforcement powers under s 24 and 24A Equality Act 2006 which enables it to apply for an injunction to prevent a person from making arrangements to act in a way which would, if applied to an individual, amount to direct discrimination. This means that the Commission can take action without having to identify a person who has been affected by the act in question (in contrast to when a claim is made directly under Equality Act 2010).

Fergus Wilson, who is the landlord of hundreds of properties in Kent, had sent his lettings agents a directive “no coloured people because of the smell of curry at the end of the tenancy”. When the Commission asked him to refrain from having such a policy he refused and asserted the policy as justified for economic reasons, namely to avoid the cost of removing the smell of curry from the property.

HHJ Polden, sitting at Maidstone County Court, held that the policy constituted direct discrimination under ss 13 and 33 Equality Act 2010. Reference was made to the provisions on direct discrimination in the Statutory Code of Practice on Services, Public Functions and Associations (there is not yet a statutory code of practice on Part 4 (Premises)).

The ruling has been covered in the media, including in the Guardian.

Bethan Harris is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Housing Team.



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