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Summary

I live in Czech Republic and during my search for a new flat, a landlord refused to rent me the flat because I am not fluent enough in the local language. Is this a legitimate reason for refusing to rent a flat ?

Full story

I have been living in Czech Republic for several years, I am a foreigner from another EU country with a right of living in Czech Republic without a visa.

Currently looking for a flat, I visited a nice flat that I wanted to rent. I agreed with the real estate agent to rent it, all our discussion have been in English as my proficiency in Czech cannot allow me to fully converse with him in the local language. The real estate agent gave me his approval and before signing the contract he told me he had to ask the landlord if it was fine with him too.

After a few days, the real estate agent wrote me an email stating that the flat would not be rented to me because they want to rent to people speaking Czech and found another person matching this criteria.

I quote:

"They prefered [the other clients] because they were czech speaking."

This does sound a bit odd to me professionally, but also got me thinking if this was a legitimate reason to refuse to rent a flat to somebody.

Under Czech and EU law, is it a legitimate reason to turn down a rental request because I do not speak the local language ?

Nota Bene: I am just curious about the state of the law in Czech Republic and European Union regarding this matter, I will not be taking this case to court in any sort.

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There is a general EU anti-discrimination directive 2000/43 which in Article 3(1)(h) which applies the standards to housing. This document analyzes Czech anti-discrimination law. If you were discriminated against on the basis of being English, that could support legal action. There is no current EU or Czech legislation that guarantees a right to operate in the language of your choice. There have been calls to create some such legislation. Such legislation would be the implementation of Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which says that

Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.

There is under Article 9 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages a right to use regional or minority languages in judicial proceedings, but there is no generic "right to use your own language". There are occasional cases where governments are sued because their actions linguistically discriminate. As observed here, there was a case in Belgium where the government was sued for not subsidizing French education in non-French territories, but the court said that "Art. 14 cannot be interpreted as guaranteeing children or parents a right to obtain instruction in a language of his choice".

  • I see, just for clarity, if the landlord was to refuse an application stating that the applicant isn't Czech or is from England, a legal action could occur. But there is strictly speaking no law that would consider a discrimination solely on the basis of language proficiency . However in the future there could be an implementation of the Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and this implementation could qualify language proficiency as a discrimination bias and thus allow legal action. Am I correct ? – PBCh Sep 19 '18 at 8:15
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    That is correct. – user6726 Sep 19 '18 at 14:02

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