An undercover BBC investigation has revealed that some London letting agents refuse black tenants.
The BBC’s Inside Out programme says that 10 firms told a reporter posing as a landlord they would not let to African-Caribbean people at his request. It also claims that a black researcher was denied property viewings, while his white counterpart was welcomed.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for businesses to refuse to provide a service based on ethnicity.
The BBC investigation centred on a three-bedroom flat in Kensington, West London. It invited 10 letting agents to assess its rental value.
All 10 were recorded on secret camera saying they would be prepared not to show the flat to African-Caribbean people. Many detailed how they had done it before, typically telling black applicants the property was already taken or simply just not returning their calls.
One agency exposed by the investigation was A to Z Property Services, in Dollis Hill. A member of staff from the agency told the BBC: "We cannot be shown discriminating against a community. But obviously we've got our ways around that.”
A survey of 750 adults by the Runnymede Trust found 29% of black people seeking private housing had experienced discrimination – compared to just 1% of white respondents.
When confronted in his office, the A to Z Property Services agent said it was "pointless taking on a property" if the landlord "doesn't like" the client's ethnicity.
The UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) said it was dismayed at racist agents. UKALA members agree to abide by a code of practice which reinforces best practice by prohibiting such prejudice.
UKALA executive Caroline Kenny said: “There is no place in today’s lettings market for racial discrimination, practices such as those uncovered by the BBC are abhorrent and illegal.
“If a letting agent is asked by a client not to show a property to a person on the basis of their ethnic origin they have an obligation to explain that such activities are unacceptable and refuse their business.
“I would expect a responsible letting agent to dis-instruct themselves from a landlord making such a disgraceful request.”