According to a new BBC investigation, letting agents in London, England are discriminating against would-be tenants on the grounds of racial ethnicity.
An undercover reporter for the BBC, who was posing as a landlord, was told by 10 firms that they would not let premises to African-Caribbean people if he requested them not to.
In another part of the undercover investigation a white researcher was welcomed by agencies to view a holding but a black colleague was denied and according to the BBC findings, this kind of behavior is quite normal in certain parts of west London.
In an effort to expose this discriminatory practice, a plush three-bedroom flat in north Kensington, London was acquired by the BBC investigation team. After the acquisition, 10 letting agents from different firms were invited to assess its rental value and their comments were secretly recorded.
On secret camera, all of the letting agents said that they would not show the flat to African-Caribbean people if the owner did not wish them to do so and many of them admitted to doing this kind of thing before.
A to Z Property Services, Dollis Hill, north-west, London’s lettings manager said that although they could not be seen to show discrimination against any particular community, they had ways of getting around the issue. He added that Afro-Caribbean people were not wanted by 99% of his landlords.
Another letting manager at National Estate Agents, Willesden, London, said that African-Caribbean people would not be informed about the flat if they came into his office to inquire about vacant premises. He added that even if they asked about the flat, he would make up some excuse.
To prove the point, the National Estate Agents manager was asked by a black undercover researcher about the flat and he was told “I’m sorry, that one’s gone.” However, a white undercover researcher inquiring about the same premises was offered a viewing.
The letting manager for A to Z said on the secret camera that although they couldn’t tell unwanted tenants outright, that they couldn’t view the premises, they would just not call them back.
A separate survey by the Runnymede Trust foundation of 750 adults found that while only 1% of white respondents said that they had experienced discrimination of some sort while trying to rent accommodation, 29% of black respondents said that they had.
Rob Berkeley, director of Runnymede said that to find out that in 2013 racism was still stopping people from finding a home was shocking. He went on to say “Many people think the days of landlords hanging ‘No Blacks’ signs outside properties are long gone – but discrimination clearly still exists.”
According to Member of Parliament, Liberal Democrat Don Foster, who was the housing minister from 2012 to 2013, England has firm laws against discrimination and what they needed was for people to come forward so something could be done about it.
However, the BBC found out that not one single complaint had been upheld of the 36 people who complained about discrimination to the Property Ombudsman in the last three years and only two complaints had received a full investigation