‘Preferably no tenants on welfare or unemployment benefits’

16 October 2017
Area of action: Housing
Grounds of discrimination: Other areas of discrimination

In the housing market, landlords sometimes refuse to rent to people without regular employment, for example on welfare or unemployment benefits. When they do so, they are discriminating on the basis of wealth. Fortunately, anyone who experiences this form of discrimination is protected by the antidiscrimination legislation.

An owner asks prospective tenants to submit a payslip; a landlord refuses to rent his house to ‘insolvents’, etc. At Unia we received 165 reports of discrimination on the basis of wealth in the private rental market in 2016. As was already apparent in 2014 from our Housing Diversity Barometer, people on benefits are structurally excluded in their search for housing. Real estate agents appear to be well aware of the antidiscrimination legislation, but nevertheless often hide behind landlords who want no tenants on benefits.

What does the law say?

In Belgium the antidiscrimination legislation covers 19 specific discrimination criteria. The best known are the racial criteria, disability, religious or philosophical conviction, sexual orientation and age. But wealth too, or the financial capacity that someone has, is covered by law as a criterion for discrimination.   

Naturally an owner may consider whether the tenant will in fact be able to pay his rent regularly. Nevertheless, the antidiscrimination legislation does not allow all practices. The owner may take account of the financial resources of a prospective tenant, but this must be done in an objective and reasonable way.

Thus, to obtain information on the solvency of the prospective tenant an owner may require that the prospective tenant submit proof of income. But the owner may not limit this to accepting payslips, because he then excludes from the outset other forms of income that the candidate could have available.

Reporting pays

Have you experienced a similar situation yourself? Be aware that you can report it to Unia. We help you free of charge and in complete confidentiality.