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Local authority housing

This content applies to England

Local authority housing and the issues relating to it that can arise for LGBT people.

Many local authority allocation schemes may not take into account the particular problems faced by LGBT people and this may make it difficult for LGBT people to obtain council housing. However, from 1 October 2010, the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for people with the right to dispose of, or managing, premises to discriminate against a person on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, disability, race, religion/belief (see the Equality law section for more information). In addition, it may be possible for LGBT people to challenge discrimination in the ways outlined below.

Allocations

The Fair and flexible: statutory guidance states that local authorities must give a reasonable preference in their allocation schemes to applicants who need to move on welfare grounds,[1] which might include LGBT people experiencing homophobic or transphobic harassment. This guidance also states that, in framing their allocation scheme, local authorities need to ensure that it is compatible with the equality legislation. As well as the other duties to eliminate unlawful discrimination, local authorities are subject to a positive duty to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not. The guidance strongly recommend that local authorities carry out an equality impact assessment of any change to their allocation policies to ensure compliance with the equality duties; and monitor lettings outcomes under the allocation scheme ensuring that this information is made regularly and publicly available.

The Fair and flexible guidance also reminds local authorities of the general 'public sector equality duty' (due to come into force on 6 April 2011 under the Equality Act 2010). This will mean that when carrying out their allocation function and when reviewing and revising their allocation policies, local authorities will need to consider the impact of their decisions on people with the protected characteristics of sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, religion/belief, age, race, and disability. The way in which local authorities frame their allocation scheme will be significant in ensuring they discharge this duty under the Equality Act 2010. For more information about the Equality Act 2010, including implementation dates, key concepts, discrimination in relation to premises and public sector equality duty, see the Equality law section.

The Allocation of Accommodation Code of Guidance suggests that local authorities should consider offering additional preference in their allocations schemes to same-sex couples who experience harassment amounting to violence or threats of violence.[2]

Joint tenancies

The Allocation of Accommodation Code of Guidance recommends also that they should normally award a joint tenancy to a same-sex couple who share accommodation as partners.[3] The guidance requires local authorities to make same-sex couples aware of the option of a joint tenancy, including the effects the joint tenancy may have on succession rights. Any refusal to grant the tenancy must be made in writing and include reasons for the decision.[4]

[1] para 17(d) Fair and flexible: statutory guidance on social housing allocations for local authorities in England, CLG, December 2009.

[2] para 5.13(a) Allocation of Accommodation Code of Guidance for local authorities, ODPM, November 2002 revision.

[3] para 3.6 Allocation of Accommodation Code of Guidance for local authorities, ODPM, November 2002 revision.

[4] para 3.7 Allocation of Accommodation Code of Guidance for local authorities, ODPM, November 2002 revision.

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