OFT 'must stamp out' estate agent discrimination

Peter Bolton King, of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said some practices seen in the programme were "absolutely disgraceful"

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Letting agents prepared to discriminate against tenants on racial grounds must be "stamped out" by the Office of Fair Trading, a local council has demanded.

Some 10 west London firms told a BBC reporter posing as a landlord they would not let flats to African-Caribbean people at his request.

Now the leader of Brent Council has called on the OFT to investigate and take action.

The OFT has said it will look in to the matter.

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for businesses to refuse to provide a service based on ethnicity.

But a BBC London undercover investigation, acting on a tip off, recorded numerous estate agents saying they would be prepared to discriminate on racial grounds on behalf of landlords.

A black researcher was subsequently denied viewings of a flat obtained by the BBC, yet his white counterpart was welcomed.

In their own words

A selection of comments from other agents willing to discriminate on behalf of a landlord:

"We can tell from speaking to them on the phone what their colour is."

"Without openly advertising that it's no Afro-Caribbeans allowed, we'd obviously understand that it's not available."

"We're in this age where people want to be politically correct, but without being racist, it happens."

"We can always make an excuse that it's under offer, we are just waiting for someone's references."

"Any landlord who is not happy with any nation, we have no problem with that. I'm not going to see like you are racist."

Many estate agents detailed how they had prevented black tenants from viewing flats in the past.

Now Councillor Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, has written to the OFT.

He said: "I am writing to you to make a formal complaint with respect whether they [the firms] should be prohibited from carrying out estate agency work.

"There is no place in Brent or in London for any type of discrimination based on the colour of someone's skin.

"It is deeply troubling that this sort of practice is still occurring in twenty first century Britain."

He added: "I am calling on the Office of Fair Trading to help to stamp out this sort of behaviour, once and for all."

An OFT spokesman said: "We consider all complaints on their own merit.

"We will assess this complaint and take action if necessary."

The investigation lead to street protests outside two of the firms.

One estate agent told an undercover researcher: "99% of my landlords don't want Afro-Caribbeans or any troublesome people."

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is already investigating.

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