Finding a suitable new apartment can be a difficult ordeal. This is particularly the case of Guillaume, a father, who contacted us via the orange Alert us button. He was refused several apartments, on the pretext that his children could be… noisy.
Time is running out for Guillaume. This 39-year-old Brussels graphic designer is actively looking for a new apartment. The task is long and tedious, but above all frustrating for this father of two children. “We often find ourselves confronted with landlords who do not want children in their accommodation, because they are afraid of the noise they could cause.“, he regrets.
Recently, Guillaume had found the apartment of his dreams. “It really corresponded perfectly, it was a duplex of 120m², three bedrooms, quite accessible in my prices, I saw myself in it“. But unfortunately, this property has, once again, slipped through his fingers. The real estate agency explains to him that its owner does not want children to live in this apartment. “sledgehammer“for William “not being able to have a single chance to visit this property is very frustrating“, he testifies.
However, very motivated, this father believes he has done everything to win, if only for a visit. Guillaume decided to write a letter to the owner. He talks about his children”very calm and well learned, independent. I absolutely want them to read as much as possible, there are no screens at home, no video games. And I make sure to stimulate their creativity in a way appeased“. In accordance with the owner’s desire for peace of mind, Guillaume says, in his letter, to consider “the house as a place of rest and calm. You take off your shoes there, you don’t run there, you don’t shout there. Outside, they can spend as they wish.“He adds, moreover, to have”understood that the building needed peace of mind, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for too. I can therefore commit to sticking to it“.
Unfortunately, these efforts did not pay off: “I asked the real estate agency to submit at least this letter, to give me a chance to visit the apartment. But she never wanted to forward my letter and application to the owner“. Indeed, the agency explained, orally, that the owner had specified not to want children.
Guillaume has now given up. Today he says “frustrated“, and victim of discrimination: “I don’t feel at all that I have the same chances as others“. A reality that was difficult for the Brussels resident to accept. Faced with this observation, Guillaume wonders “whether the landlord has the right to ask how many people will live in his dwelling. Is it legal or not? I failed to find“.
He is not the only one to undergo this kind of treatment. In a Facebook group of which he is a part, Guillaume has read many testimonials from single parents. “I’ve been looking for months through an agency, my profile never fits. Alone with a work-study son, a dog and no financial problems”, writes a user.
The principle of prohibiting a category of people is discrimination
A legal vagueness
Is asking the number of people who will occupy the property legal? To answer this question, we turned to the UNIA, the independent public institution which fights against discrimination and defends equal opportunities in Belgium. For its French-speaking co-director, Patrick Charlier, “the principle of prohibiting a category of people is discrimination. We must each time make an individual examination of the situation, but we cannot prohibit a category of people on principle from applying for housing“.
This type of file is fairly regularly submitted to the UNIA. The latter generally offers legal support. However, few people discriminated against in this way decide to continue their actions. “Because people are looking for accommodation, and starting this procedure is difficult“, continues Patrick Charlier. This is moreover the opinion of Guillaume, who intends to contact the UNIA despite everything: “These are steps that take time, with two children and my search for accommodation, do I want to get involved in this…“
Legal action seems, for many people, a trying and complicated task. Especially since the law does not specify parentage as a “protected criterion”. The lawyer specializing in real estate law, Nicolas Delmoitié, explains to us: “There is direct discrimination from the moment you refuse a tenant on the basis of criteria that we qualify as protected, or objective. We are talking about criteria related to sex, sexual orientation, state of health, disability, and all the criteria that are related to nationality, skin color, alleged race, ethnic origin , …“Among these many criteria, there is not the fact of having children or not.
According to Nicolas Delmoitié, Guillaume’s case does not therefore fall under the law of discrimination. But “but behind that, we have to see if there are still the criteria of proportionality and that there is no abuse of rights on the part of donors“. In other words, this refusal must be justified, and the tranquility of the building must no longer be guaranteed, and this constitutes a risk for the solvency of the apartment. “It is a ‘case in point’ assessment, which justifies that each case, each dispute, each situation be the subject of an in-depth analysis.“, underlines the lawyer.