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Dealing with Discrimination When Buying a Property

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 25 Apr 2012 | comments*Discuss
Property Discrimination Buying Property

Buying property is a time consuming process, one that becomes infinitely more frustrating if any sort of discrimination surrounds the property or process. Discrimination can be in any form, from racism to sexism to discrimination against a certain religion, sexual orientation or ability level, and it has no place when someone is trying to purchase a house or apartment. Buyers who experience discrimination from a seller, estate agent, Council or mortgage lender while trying to buy property do have some avenues of recourse open to them.

Discrimination from a Seller

A seller has the right to sell his or her property to whoever (s)he wants and does not have to sell his or her property to the person who offers the highest price for it. This can make it difficult to argue that a seller is discriminating against a particular buyer on a particular basis (for example, race, sex, etc.). However, it is illegal for a seller to treat a buyer unfairly based on a factor such as race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or ability level. For example, it is illegal for a seller to offer less favourable terms of sale to a potential buyer based on one of these factors. A buyer who believes that (s)he has been subjected to unfair treatment from a seller should seek advice from a solicitor on how best to address this situation.

Discrimination from an Estate Agent

Discrimination from an estate agent is illegal. No estate agent has the right, or legal protection, to refuse to show a property to someone based on their race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or ability level, among other factors. Discrimination could take the form of refusing to show a buyer a certain house or apartment, making comments to the buyer about their person or background or it could take many other forms. If a buyer feels that (s)he has experienced discrimination at the hands of an estate agent then (s)he should not delay in making a complaint to the estate agency and investigating whether you can lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman for Estate Agents.

Discrimination from a Council

Discrimination from a Council is illegal. If a buyer is interested in purchasing a property from a Council, for example through a Right to Buy Mortgage scheme, then nothing other than their secure tenancy and financial ability should be impact the Council’s decision to sell to that buyer. If an individual does feel that discrimination has reared its head while (s)he tries to buy property from a Council (s)he should make this known to the local authorities. It may require the help of an experienced solicitor to understand how best to make a complaint about the Council to the Council.

Discrimination from a Mortgage Lender

Most individuals require a mortgage to purchase a property and some mortgage lenders may engage in discriminatory practices. An individual who suspects that a mortgage lender has not treated their application fairly due to a factor such as race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or ability should discuss this issue with the mortgage lender and follow its procedures regarding complaints. Those who feel that justice has not been served in this manner could also consider filing a formal complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Discrimination is never acceptable and certainly not when an individual is trying to purchase a new home. Individuals who do feel that they have been subjected to discrimination in the process of trying to buy property should investigate their options concerning complaints.

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