‘Mystery shoppers’ to tackle discrimination in housing sector

Photo: DutchNews.nl
Photo: DutchNews.nl

Mystery guests posing as house buyers or prospective tenants are to be recruited in an attempt to stamp out discrimination in the housing market.

Various studies have shown that discrimination is rife in the sector, but no records are kept of how many complaints are received. A recent study in Utrecht found that 90% of letting agents were prepared to allow landlords to discriminate against tenants because of their sexuality or ethnic background.

Junior infrastructure minister Stientje van Veldhoven set out plans for the mystery guest scheme in a letter to parliament on Monday. She said there was a ‘serious problem that needs to be tackled forcefully’.

Landlords, estate agents or agencies that are found to be illegally screening out people looking for accommodation will be reported to their professional body.

The government parties D66 and VVD, as well as opposition groups Labour (PvdA) and GroenLinks, have backed the plan. However, researchers at Radboud University in Nijmegen have cast doubt on the effectiveness of the scheme.

Mystery guests will only be able to show ‘intention to discriminate’ and not collect evidence of actual breaches, since they are playing out fictional scenarios, the researchers said.

Van Veldhoven acknowledged that the scheme had its limitations, but insisted it had a role to play in ‘raising awareness’ of the problem.

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