Landlord sentenced for first time for discrimination based on assets
Monday, 11 May 2015
During the trial of a landlord, the lower court in Namur has ruled that the charge of discrimination on the basis of assets was proven, as the landlord had excluded some potential tenants on the basis of their being or not being in a long-term employment contract. The May 5th decision was highlighted by the Inter-federal Centre for Equal Opportunity on Monday, as they stressed it was a first in Belgium in the field of housing. “This decision is very encouraging and it is a big step forward in implementing an effective right to housing following article 23 of the Constitution,” says Patrick Charlier, assistant director of the Centre.
The Centre itself went to court after hearing for years about how this landlord insisted his tenants justify a long-term employment contract and a minimum income of 2,000 euros. After having been alerted several times, the Centre contacted the landlord but to no avail.
The court ruled this individual’s behaviour was in fact discriminatory in the way he marketed his property. The accused will have to pay a 500-euro fine if he does not mend his ways. The Namur court said “asking for tenants to have a long-term employment contract goes beyond what we would consider ‘normal protection’ to avoid non-payment of rent,” according to the Centre, which “recognises that a landlord has every right to ask a potential tenant to be solvent,” but insists that “the law against discrimination does not allow the landlord to discriminate against a category of applicants with non-professional income,” such as people on benefits.
Many people on benefits face serious problems when trying to find a home to rent, points out Patrick Charlier who recommends looking at solvency on a case-by-case basis and without excluding guarantees other than a long-term employment contract out of principle.