The BBC has discovered various ads, mainly in shop windows, where people looking for flatmates state a preference for someone of a particular nationality, religion, gender or ‘sexuality': Flat adverts that may be breaking the law.
Newsagents in different areas of London carry adverts saying:
“Double bedroom available… Asian only”
“Double room to let Gujarati (Indian) only”
Close to the station and bus stops (Filipino only)
“Professional single lady or Sri Lanka professional couple”
“House for rent… only Asian families”
And even on the Gumtree website you can find the occasional advert for flats in London and Birmingham specifying race.
The newsagents or online adverts are not common but they are easy to find in London in particular.
Contrary to what the social engineers would have for us, people want to “discriminate” when it comes to who they want to share their communal living space with. Shouldn’t that be their right?
I lived in a shared house in the London Borough of Harrow (Middlesex, really) for four years (1988-92). There was my bedroom and three others and I once counted up the number of people I ended up sharing the house with and I think it was 16 or 17. Some stayed for a couple of years and many left after a few months. I think one lasted a week and obviously realised he had made a dreadful mistake.
Within about six months, I had been there the longest and I sometimes had the job of showing round prospective new tenants. As I recall, the only non-white British or Irish person who was interested was a young chap from Singapore. He took a room for a few months.
But in those days, race didn’t seem to matter. ‘Sexuality’ wasn’t a major issue in society. People seemed more at ease with everyone else. Having moved around Britain quite a bit, I have looked in many newsagents’ windows for a room or flat, so if I saw some of these ads I would be glad for the advance warning.
Aren’t they just saving people time and trouble by stating what type of person they really want? For example, if you have a house of Filipinos you probably want another one. What’s the big deal?
If you have a house of white men and women like we had in Harrow (except for the Singaporean) and we advertised for white British only, we would no doubt be all over the media as well as up in court for our disgusting racist attitudes.
But when contacted by the BBC, advertisers were taken aback to hear they might be breaking the law. A woman who placed a “Filipino only” advert in a newsagent in Golders Green, north London, explains: “I’m sorry about that. All the people here are Filipino so we need Filipinos.”
An advertiser in Tooting, south London, seeking a “Muslim family” is disappointed that the law may not allow for religious preference. “We are Muslim and it’s a flatshare. What can I say? Everyone has his own preferences. OK?”
Diet is a commonly cited reason. The author of a “Gujarati (Indian) only” ad says: “I’m a vegetarian and I don’t like meat in the kitchen.”
An advertiser in Perry Barr, Birmingham, who put an ad on Gumtree for a “student room (Asian females only)” defends the wording: “We have done that because we are Asians and live in.”
A number of those contacted refused to discuss the wording of their adverts.
Some ‘experts’ believe the Equality Act is ambiguous, for example,
Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association, is less sure. “It is not clear whether tenants who do the same are breaking the law or not, although such behaviour is discriminatory against other potential housemates,” he says. “Tenants looking for new housemates should focus on describing the house’s current occupants so that potential applicants can judge for themselves whether they would be a suitable fit or not.”
As it is, you are allowed to discriminate, for example, “No smokers, pets or DSS”. In fact, these are probably the most heavily discriminated people and it is perfectly legal.
So much for equality and tolerance. I expect a good way to make sure your properties are always filled is to advertise rooms for smokers on the dole.