SpareRoom is firmly committed to equal opportunities - we monitor all ads to make sure they comply with discrimination laws.
Here’s a guide to what you can and can’t say
In simple terms, what you can (and can’t) say in your ad depends on whether you live in the property.
What the law says
It’s illegal to discriminate against someone if you’re letting a room (or whole property) based on:
- Race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin)
- Gender reassignment
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Age isn’t protected when it comes to property so it isn’t illegal to discriminate based on age.
If you’re a live out landlord or agent you can’t discriminate on any of these grounds. It’s as simple as that.
What if I live in the property?
If you live in the property you’re advertising a room in then the law is slightly more flexible. You’re allowed to have a preference, but still not when it comes to race.
In practice this applies to current flatmates and homeowners renting out a room to a lodger. If you’re advertising your room because you’re moving out you can’t discriminate, as you won’t be living there any more. If your flatmates have a preference they’ll need to place the ad themselves.
It’s always illegal to discriminate based on race when you’re letting a room or property, regardless of whether you live there or not.
It’s slightly more complicated in some instances, especially for larger properties – here’s a more detailed explanation.
A note on guide dogs
Guide dogs are working animals - their owners rely on them for independence and mobility. As a result the rules applying to pets don't necessarily also apply in the case of guide dogs.
A guide dog is a mobility aid, not a pet, which means you can't discriminate against someone for having a guide dog, in the same way you can't discriminate against someone because they're in a wheelchair. Guide dog owners and other blind or partially sighted people have the same rights when renting property as anyone else. Landlords and agencies have a duty to make reasonable adjustments and an existing 'no pet' policy cannot apply to a guide dog.
Guide dogs undergo up to two years of intensive training and are specially trained not to bother other people or to cause damage to a property or its contents.
For further information please visit guidedogs.org.uk.
It’s not just a case of what is and isn’t legal – it’s about treating people as you’d want them to treat you. We’d always prefer you stated the race, gender, sexual orientation (and so on) of the people living in the property, rather than be specific about who you’re looking for.
If you are expressing a preference in your ad, please give an explanation. If, for example, your ad says ‘No men’ or ‘Muslims only’ we’ll remove that bit of the ad. If it says ‘We prefer a female flatmate as all the other flatmates are female’ or ‘This is a Halal household so we’d prefer a Muslim’ that’s fine as you’ve offered an explanation for your preference.
We’d always prefer it if you take people on the basis of who they are, rather than which ‘boxes’ they tick.