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Question about discrimination and renting

By PickedANickname - 30 October 2009 44

I have a friend who is in a wheelchair and is on disability and the spouse works as a nurse.  They also have a small child. They are seeking to rent somewhere that is near a primary school so my friend can “wheel” her child to school.  The spouse makes just enough to disqualify them for housing but they do get some disability support and FTB.

The disability happened in the last 9 months so originally when they rented, the place was within an ok walking distance but well, now it is what it is.

They have been applying for new places but without much luck.  The market is really tight. Usually they are the last ones to the inspections or have to wait to view because the chair is difficult in crowded situations.

The last rental they didn’t get because the owner only wanted a married couple with a double income.

So my question is, can a landlord discriminate a future tenant that way?  Is the real estate agent crazy for passing along that reason to my friend?

It just doesn’t feel ethical.

What’s Your opinion?


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44 Responses to
Question about discrimination and renting
bloodnut 7:30 am 31 Oct 09

el said :

Unfortunately real estate agents/”property managers” aren’t ethical.

The largest populations of clinically diagnosed psychopaths are found in…

Real estate.

And surprisingly – politics.

Not that this agent in particular is – just making the point that they’re generally arseholes.

BUT – its like rego fees. You’ll never change it – so why complain.

Special G 6:22 am 31 Oct 09

Call it discrimination if you like Woody although impossible to prove. Choosing a tenant is not like rolling a dice. As a landlord you choose the tenant you feel is most likely to: pay rent and look after your property.

el 12:29 am 31 Oct 09

Unfortunately real estate agents/”property managers” aren’t ethical.

toriness 11:19 pm 30 Oct 09

i have an investment property and i never even hear from my property agent as to their selection process for the correct tenant – i pay them their commission so i don’t have to worry about such things.

but really, all anyone whether it’s agent or private landlord cares about when letting a property is ability of those undertaking the lease to pay the rent and also that they can be trusted to look after the property ie least damage.

discrimination brouhaha is for public housing. what’s with the socialist alliance trolling on RA at the moment???

Postalgeek 10:40 pm 30 Oct 09

The moral high ground is a lonely place, especially if you’ve never had your house trashed by another person. I’m sure you’ve never discriminated in your life, Woody, though that reduces the likelihood of you ever having been required to make a conscious personal choice involving people either.

There is a perfectly reasonable point to be made that landlords look for people with certain attributes associated with responsible tenancy, based on experience, in just the same way that motor insurance companies apply penalties for people under 25 years old because they make up the bulk of the claims.

No one has mentioned race, religion or sexual preference except for you.

bileduct 10:19 pm 30 Oct 09

I can understand a landlord preferring a white / straight / childless / Christian couple, especially if they’ve had a bad experience in the past with tenants. Generally white / straight / childless / Christian couples are considered to be financially reliable and tidy, and therefore preferable.

eyeLikeCarrots 10:18 pm 30 Oct 09

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

For f*cks’ sake – it’s like I’m living in the Dark Ages.

Forget ethical – it’s illegal to discriminate against a person because of their relationship status or status as a carer. These are just two of the many “protected attributes” under the ACT Discrimination Act 1991. File a complaint with the ACT Human Rights Commission – the forms are on the front page of their website.

To the OP – ACT Discrimination Act 1991, republication Feb 2 section 21, subsection 1 paragraph C – “(c) by deferring the other person’s application for accommodation
or according to the other person a lower order of precedence in
any list of applicants for that accommodation”

You’ll have to PROVE your application was not successful due to the disability, best of luck.

My little brother has a disability and he is coming to live in Canberra in the next month or so… he might face the same problem.

bileduct 10:16 pm 30 Oct 09

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

Forget ethical – it’s illegal to discriminate against a person because of their relationship status or status as a carer.

Actually mate, I can pretty much damn well choose exactly who I don’t want living in my house.

It’s called minimising risk, and I’m quite sure your mindset will change when you own an asset of any signifigance.

bd84 8:46 pm 30 Oct 09

It’s not considered discrimination when it comes to the rental market, the owner can filter applicants pretty much as they want.

Though, I’m guessing you have never been in the rental market to know the dual income reason is probably one of the most common requirements of landlords, as mentioned above, it lowers the risk that the tenants defaulting on the rent. It’s fairly similar to the landlords not wanting groups or people with pets, so the damage to properties and surrounds is minimised.

Postalgeek also raised a good point at what the legal obligations of the landlord may be for a tenant with a physical disability, it may also be worth looking at whether there are any as in the end that might be a bigger problem for them.

Woody Mann-Caruso 8:36 pm 30 Oct 09

For f*cks’ sake – it’s like I’m living in the Dark Ages.

Forget ethical – it’s illegal to discriminate against a person because of their relationship status or status as a carer. These are just two of the many “protected attributes” under the ACT Discrimination Act 1991. File a complaint with the ACT Human Rights Commission – the forms are on the front page of their website.

I look forward to other posts in this thread. “I can understand a landlord preferring a white / straight / childless / Christian couple, especially if they’ve had a bad experience in the past with tenants. Generally white / straight / childless / Christian couples are considered to be financially reliable and tidy, and therefore preferable.”

Postalgeek 6:03 pm 30 Oct 09

Lots of hardluck questions concerning housing this week. Something in the water?

As a landlord (the mortgaged type, not the rich type), I can understand a landlord preferring a married couple, especially if they’ve had a bad experience in the past with tenants. Generally married couples are considered to be financially reliable and tidy, and therefore preferable.

That’s not to say that discriminating in favour of them is right, but that is the rationale for it. I know we instructed our agent to favour families after our property was trashed by a group house of young men. If someone’s not paying rent, you can take action, but not so easy in regards to house maintenance.

I suppose another hesitation might be driven by possible legal obligations/expectations placed upon a landlord in regards to disabled access once a lease had been signed, though I’m just pulling that one out of the air and wouldn’t know if that is definitely the case.

Personally I would have no problems with anyone with good references. If you can get/have references, that might help allay any concerns.

Other than that, I think the above suggestion of sending the partner along is probably the way to circumvent upfront bias. It’ll be hard to prove discrimination in a busy market.

Hope they have a change in luck. All these hard luck stories make me feel very fortunate, even after a long and tedious week.

bergamot 5:30 pm 30 Oct 09

We are about to rent our 3 bed house very close to a primary school for $400/week. Perhaps the editors can pass my email address on to you and your friend can email me. We would be happy to consider first and then run it through our property manager as per usual.

*there are external steps*

sepi 5:11 pm 30 Oct 09

As I understand it it is illegal to discriminate against people with children, or or a certain race.

But in practice, when people are getting dozens of applications for each house, they are able to choose tenants based on income and references, and order of submitting the application, rather than any other factors.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_ 4:07 pm 30 Oct 09

That’s a tough situation. As a landlord, though, I will choose someone (or people) who will pay the rent reliably and look after the place. Accordingly, I discriminate against scumbags with a history of damaging property and welshing on rent.

I agree with the comment above. Send the spouse to inspect, and do so as early and quickly as possible when a property is advertised. Don’t wait for ‘open day’.

NoAddedMSG 3:45 pm 30 Oct 09

That does suck, but I do think that landlords get to pick the person they feel is most likely to pay their rent on time, everytime.

My suggested approach would be to send the spouse along to inspect on his own, with the forms already filled out (if you can get them in advance). That way if it looks suitable, the forms can be handed in on the spot. Then if they get offered the property ask to do another inspection before accepting, which is when the whole family goes along.

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