If you have been refused housing by a council or housing association but believe that you should not have been, you may be able to challenge the refusal by making use of your rights to have your case reviewed (looked at again by the decision-maker) or by using the courts (a judicial review). If you believe that you were refused housing or treated less favourably because of your race, nationality, immigration status or ethnicity, the decision may count as unlawful discrimination and could be overturned. This page deals with how to challenge discrimination. There is more detail on the law in the page on what is 'discrimination' in housing?
Discrimination happens when you are treated less favourably, such as being refused a service on the grounds of your nationality, race or ethnicity, or when a service is offered in a way that makes it difficult or impossible for people of some national, racial or ethnic groups to get it, and there is no legal justification for this. Discrimination on the grounds of race is illegal in the UK, and there are also laws against discrimination on other grounds such as gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion and transgender status.
Examples of discrimination might be:
- council officers refusing a tenancy to someone whose humanitarian protection is about to end because they do not understand the law on eligibility
- a homeless persons unit refusing an application from a European worker because they have not read the regulations on eligibility properly
- a housing association refusing to put a work permit holder in their area on their waiting list because she has limited leave to remain.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against, it is important to get all the information you can about what has happened and to act quickly:
- ask for any decisions to be in writing
- get the names and job titles of the people involved
- make a careful record of what has happened.
First, it is important to explain that you believe that you have been discriminated against and ask to speak to a manager or supervisor to try to resolve the problem.
If this does not help, get advice. The Equality Advisory Support Service can offer telephone advice about what to do if you have suffered discrimination. The government also publishes a helpful leaflet (pdf) about how to deal with discrimination in housing and other services.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provides information and guidance for people who believe they may have suffered discrimination. The EHRC itself may be able to offer you support and legal advice or representation. It may decide to carry out an investigation in certain cases and make orders to stop any discrimination it finds. If the EHRC cannot offer legal advice and representation, you may be able to get this from a solicitor (and you may be able to get legal aid for this) or a law centre. You can find your nearest law centre here.
There is a time limit of six months on starting legal action against racial discrimination (time limits for other types of legal action may be much shorter, so you should never delay in getting advice if you think you may need to do this), but it may take some time for the case to come to the sheriff court where it will be heard. If you win, the court may order the discrimination to end and the people who discriminated against you to pay compensation for any losses and a sum for injury to feelings. You may be made an offer to settle the case before it gets to court.