"You don't earn €2,000 a month? You can't rent my house."

For the first time ever in Belgium, a judge has convicted a landlord for discrimination based on wealth. The Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (CEOOR) is speaking of an important precedent.

In 2011, CEOOR went to court after receiving several complaints about a landlord who would only let his house to people who earned more than 2,000 euros per month. Several official demands to end the discriminatory behaviour were to no avail. The judge acknowledged the discrimination and did not accept the landlord's defence claiming he needed these 'restrictive conditions' as an insurance against unpaid rent. The judge explained that, normally, the requirements of a working contract for an unspecified period exceed the usual coverage of a payment default.

The landlord does have the right to investigate the solvency of a potential renter, but he has to do it individually. He can't exclude a whole group of candidates as a whole by principle. Also, the landlord is not allowed to simply decline all guarantees provided by the candidate, such as a deposit or a proof of correct payment of earlier rent bills, says CEOOR's Jozef De Witte.

The judge has now ordered the discriminating landlord to stop. If he doesn't, the man has to pay a 500-euro fine. Mr De Witte calls the verdict an important precedent. "The so-called 'housing diversity barometer' has shown that this kind of discrimination occurs a lot, especially on the private real estate market", Mr De Witte explains. "This verdict answers to an urgent call by renters who are all too often confronted with discrimination when they are looking for a place to live."