Josh’s experience in searching for an apartment to rent
Recently, Josh, a French citizen of black African descent, moved to Riga from London after completing his studies. He found a job at an IT company in Riga, where he works as a highly skilled programmer. Currently, Josh is living in a hotel and searching for an apartment to rent. His colleagues recommended that Josh contact one of the real estate agencies that can help him find a suitable apartment within a couple of days. Josh sent an email to one of the agencies and received a polite response. The agency offered to meet in person or via Zoom to discuss Josh’s preferences. Josh attended an in-person meeting with one of the agents. The agent was polite and responsive, but after the meeting, they sent an email stating that they cannot help Josh find an apartment because he is a citizen of a “third country.” Josh replied, clarifying that he is a French citizen, but he didn’t receive any further response from the real estate agency.
What to do in a similar situation?
Practical tip: In such situations, it is useful to take screenshots of information, emails, conversations, or any messages received from the service provider.
If a person suspects that they are being denied services based on their skin color, ethnicity, nationality, as well as gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, or other grounds, they have the right to file a complaint with the Ombudsman’s Office or take civil action in court.
The Ombudsman can initiate an investigation and, upon finding a violation of the prohibition of discrimination, impose an obligation on the violator to cease the discriminatory practice. On the other hand, if a person takes the case to court and the court recognizes a violation of the prohibition of discrimination, it may award non-pecuniary damages.
To seek guidance on how to proceed in a specific situation, a person can reach out to the Ombudsman’s Office or the Latvian Centre for Human Rights .
It is important to remember that discrimination is also prohibited in relation to access to housing rentals if it is a lessor’s economic or professional activity. Additionally, a real estate agent may be held responsible for violating the prohibition of discrimination if they comply with the lessor’s instruction to discriminate against potential tenants.
Why is it important to report discrimination?
Unjust differential treatment based on factors such as skin color, national or ethnic origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, etc., is prohibited.
It is important to report such incidents in order to defend your rights, receive compensation for any harm done, and put an end to unlawful practices.
The Ombudsman’s Office
Baznīcas ielā 25, Rīgā, LV-1010
The Latvian Centre for Human Rights
(Latvijas Cilvēktiesību centrs)
Skolas ielā 21, 609C, Rīgā, LV-1010
Tālr.: (+371) 67039290
This informative material is created as part of the project “Towards a more tolerant society: information, education, support and cooperation.” The project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and the Norwegian grant programme “Active Citizens Fund”. Make Room Europe and the Latvian Centre for Human Rights are fully responsible for the content of this material.