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SpareRoom apologises after posting ad asking for Christian tenant

by Donna Birrell

The house and flat share agency SpareRoom has apologised after posting an advert from somebody who specifically said the room would best suit a Catholic or Christian.

The person who posted the ad - for a room in Stratford in east London - stated that they weren’t against other religions but felt that it is better they don't live with each other. The ad stated :

“I am trying to avoid different religions so probably if you are Catholic or Christian would suit best.

“I don’t have anything against other religions but it’s best when we just respect each other and not live with each other.”

Religion and belief are protected characteristics and enshrined in the 2010 Equalities Act. The Act states that it is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of age, gender reassignment, being married or in a civil partnership, being pregnant or on maternity leave, disability, race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation.

SpareRoom apologised for posting the advertisement, saying it would speak to the member of staff who allowed it, to ‘ensure it doesn’t happen again. Religion is absolutely a protected characteristic … but, under the Act, certain exemptions apply.

‘When advertising a room in a property you live in, you’re allowed to state a preference for someone who shares your faith.

“This preference could be for numerous reasons (e.g. preferring to live with someone who doesn’t drink alcohol), but we’d always encourage the user to include these reasons to avoid misunderstandings (we’ve asked the advertiser to do this).’

Ryan Davies is the founder of Christian Flatshare (CFS) which encourages believers to rent rooms to each other and also to people of all faiths and backgrounds. He told Premier he agrees that sites shouldn’t be allowed to specify on a religious basis and that the Church grows through being welcoming :

“CFS (Christian Flatshare) was founded in 2008, born out of a stream of accommodation requests coming in to a church community forum in West London. There is a real need for people who want to share a house or a flat to share with ‘like-minded’ people, people who share the same religion. It’s a very personal thing to share one’s space - it depends on age and the sex of the people and attitudes to music, there's so many so many dimensions to that equation.

“To be clear, CFS is for accommodation seekers to come and connect with a church community. So it's an open doorway. It’s for believers, for agnostics, for seekers for Buddhists, Muslims – anyone who wants to connect with a church community. I say bring it on, this is what it's for.

“We haven't had a situation of an advert that says explicitly, it can only be for people who believe this or believe that. The church should be an open place to welcome everybody. CFS is about finding homes, growing churches, building communities and welcoming everyone.”

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