In the UK (and apparently most other western countries) there are incredibly strict laws against gender discrimination in the workplace, education, services, military etc. However, when it comes to the renting - it all magically goes away and it is perfectly fine to advertise property for renting "for females only". How is that possible? In what sense is the workplace different from a shared flat? What about non-shared flats (landlords refusing to let the whole flat to males)?

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    In what sense is the workplace the same from a shared flat? These seem to be quite different situations. I'm unsure why you think that employment law should be the same as housing.
    – James K
    Sep 17 '17 at 16:05
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    (1) it is also legal (at least in the US, but I suspect other western nations to) to discriminate in employment also in some cases. The obvious ones are things like modelling or film roles. It's completely legal to say 'I need a 250lb Indian woman for this role'. (2) While I'm not sure what the official academic answer to this is, I think it clearly boils down to a woman does not want to be forced to be alone in an apartment with a man she might not know. Sep 17 '17 at 16:27
  • -1 for claiming this is legal but not providing a citation. Just because an advert exists doesn't mean it's legal! The question might be better phrase as, "why does it appear to be acceptable...?", or "why is it so commonplace...?" etc.
    – JBentley
    Oct 19 '17 at 4:14

However, when it comes to the renting - it all magically goes away

It doesn't look like it. The only case where owners are allowed to discriminate is when (source):

  • the owner is living in the property, and
  • the owner is selling or letting the property without using an estate agent, and
  • the owner is not advertising the sale or letting of the property - a for sale sign counts as an advertisement.

In other words, unless you're an owner-occupier that is renting your flat yourself and without ads to that effect online or offline, refusing to rent to someone based on their gender is a clearcut case of discrimination according to the Equality Act 2010.

The rules are different when you're into flat sharing. In this case discrimination can be valid when:

The tenant or owner, or a family member of the tenant or owner, lives in the property and will continue to live in the property when they let part of it to you.

You must also share some of the accommodation with the person living in the property.

In other words, if you or a family member live there and need to share e.g. a bathroom, living room, or kitchen. In other cases it's discrimination.

How is that possible?

Because Brits aren't reporting it enough nor are they suing the practice out of existence.

  • Should it be considered discriminatory to insist on a specific gender when choosing a life partner? I think most reasonable people would say "no" to that. So how about someone who is going to share your home? I do appreciate that the two are not the same thing. But selecting someone to live under your own roof is something where I believe, and I think most of my compatriots would agree, a person should be entitled to be as specific and every bit as discriminatory as they would wish. And I say that as one who is usually passionately opposed to all forms of discrimination.
    – WS2
    Apr 22 '19 at 7:19
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    @WS2: Per the answer, that's basically what the law says. You're allowed to be choosy when looking for a flatmate. There's another exception with two big caveats when you're renting e.g. the guest house in your garden or another flat in the building you own and live in. In other cases it's discrimination. Apr 22 '19 at 7:52
  • I was confused by the last two sentences of your answer.
    – WS2
    Apr 22 '19 at 19:49

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