Equal Opportunities Within The Mortgage And Property Industry
No, we haven’t gone crazy: the controversial topic of ‘Equal Opportunities’ is everywhere and the mortgage industry and property market are no exceptions! Almost every aspect of the property buying, selling and letting process has a potential equal opportunities issue. Therefore, it is imperative that every professional should be well-versed in the possible pitfalls if they are to avoid falling foul of the many different rules and regulations relating to equal opportunities.
Discriminatory behaviour can come from just about any individual in the property sector. For example, a landlord who refuses to allow a specific ethnic minority to view his property is guilty of unlawfully discriminating; similarly, any letting agency that follows these instructions would also be guilty of unlawful discrimination.
These are obvious cases of discrimination and most landlords and agents can see the issues involved here; however, the possible problems associated with equal opportunities’ regulations are not always as blatantly obvious as the examples above.
An insurance company, for instance, could be considered as acting unlawfully should they refuse to insure property in a certain district of a city if that area has a high percentage of a specific ethnic minority. Although this type of discrimination is indirect, it is no less unlawful.
As one would imagine, there is a range of laws in place to prevent this type of discriminatory behaviour and anyone involved in the property industry should be aware of the core rules that govern equal opportunities.
The Estate Agents Act 1979 contains strict rules about racial discrimination. Generally, any racial discrimination allegations against an estate agent are dealt with by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which has the power to prevent an estate agent from working, if they believe that an estate agent has acted in a racially discriminatory manner.
There is an obligation on the CRE to give information to the OFT in relation to any finding of discrimination against an estate agent, any non-discrimination notice that has been issued and any order or injunction that has been issued against an estate agent under the 1979 Act.
The Consumer Credit Act 1974 is more to do with the arranging of mortgages or credit facilities. This Act is more likely to be relevant to property developers offering financing, estate agents making finance available and mortgage brokers / providers.
Anyone who offers finance facilities for the purpose of property purchases must obtain a licence from the Office of Fair Trading. If there is any evidence that the entity has behaved in a discriminatory way on the grounds of race, ethnic or national origins, during their business, then the OFT can refuse or revoke a licence.