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PainSmith Solicitors Legal Update - 24th July 2007 - Belief Discrimination

Part of the Equality Act 2006 outlaws discrimination on the grounds of belief. This came into force at the end of April 2007. These provisions apply to the disposal of premises, including sales and lettings.

The provisions prohibit discrimination on the grounds of a religion or belief they hold or are thought to hold or on the grounds of not holding a belief. It is intended that the idea of belief will be interpreted more widely than simple religious lines but the government has deliberately left the matter for the Courts to decide.

In most cases these regulations should have little impact on lettings agents. Few Agents or landlords discriminate against individuals on the grounds of belief. Where someone believes they have been discriminated against they can serve a notice on the person they believe has discriminated against them asking that information is provided. This can be done on a standard form within six months of the occurrence of the alleged discrimination.

If such a form is served then the person receiving it should reply within 8 weeks. A standard form is also available for this purpose. If the reply is not forthcoming inside 8 weeks or is evasive then the Court is entitled to draw inferences from that such as the inference that discrimination has occurred. Claims of unlawful discrimination must be brought within six months of the action complained about and should be brought in the County Court .

The normal penalty is compensation to the Claimant. Landlords and Agents should familiarise themselves with the question and response forms so that they are able to answer queries promptly and clearly. While the financial penalties are likely to be slight the negative publicity and embarrassment resulting from a claim being proven could be substantial. Further guidance, which includes the standard forms requesting further information and responding to such a request, is also available from the DCLG and can be found on their website at www.communities.gov.uk

Dr David Smith is a trainee solicitor with PainSmith Solicitors, a niche practice specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. He can be contacted on 01420 565310 or by email at david@painsmith.co.uk. If you wish to subscribe to the free legal updates service then you should email update@painsmith.co.uk with the phrase "subscribe updates" in the subject of the email.

PainSmith Solicitors Legal Updates are provided for information only and are not legal advice. If you do have a legal problem, you should talk to a lawyer or adviser before making a decision about what to do. You may wish to use the CLS/CDS Directory (www.justask.org.uk/public/en/directory) to locate an adviser. The information provided here is written for people resident in, or affected by, the laws of England and Wales only. You should note that date given in the update and be aware that the information given may become inaccurate due to changes in the law or its implementation.

PainSmith Solicitors

Information supplied by PainSmith Solicitors who are a niche practice specialising in Landlord and Tenant Law. Based in Medstead in Hampshire, they are ideally situated to provide an efficient service to clients nationwide as well as those based in Central London and the Home Counties.

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