Question about discrimination and renting

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.


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44 Responses to Question about discrimination and renting
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cleo cleo 1:37 am 11 Nov 09

If your going through a realestate agent, they can check on records if someone has a mark against their name, very simple.

georgesgenitals georgesgenitals 10:25 pm 10 Nov 09

Clown Killer said :

….who just sounds like a ‘renter’

The inner north is just full of these people. An inability to bother saving for their own home fueled by a misguided sense of entitlement.

Harsh, but accurate. And one of the reasons that the inner north was once an investors dream come true. For some bizarre reason there are lots of people renting there that seem to think they couldn’t possibly survive anywhere else (extended family members of mine included).

moneypenny2612 moneypenny2612 8:28 pm 10 Nov 09

bileduct said :

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 – SECT 115
Resident must not install fixtures without consent

115. Resident must not install fixtures without consent

A resident must not install any fixtures in the room or rooming house without
the prior written consent of the rooming house owner.

There doesn’t seem to be a section entitled “Unreasonable denial of request to install fixtures”. Perhaps you could help me find it?

Gladly.

There is no section 115 in the ACT residential tenancy legislation. The current Act can be downloaded from the ACT legislation register. Please browse it at your leisure.

Section 8 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 says that each tenancy is on the terms and conditions set out in schedule 1 (at the back of the Act). This is the standard form agreement.

Clause 68 in the standard form agreement is about the installation of fittings and fixtures. It is a clause with 4 sections – make sure you read the whole thing:

68 — Tenant must not add any fixtures or fittings without the consent of lessor

(1) The tenant must not add any fixtures or fittings to the premises without the consent of the lessor.
(2) The lessor’s consent must not be unreasonably withheld.
(3) The tenant must make good any damage to the premises on removal of any fixtures and fittings.
(4) Any fixtures or fittings not removed by the tenant before the tenant leaves the premises becomes the property of the lessor.

This clause regulated my tenancy. I sought permission. The landlord refused – he refused to provide reasons when I asked for them. (Come to think of it, he sounded a bit like you Bileduct).

Because I was pissed off, and I wanted to quietly enjoy the home I was paying good money to rent, I installed the fitting anyway (a picture hook, not a split system air conditioner!). I promised to make good consistent with subclause (3). I made good at the end of my tenancy.

Happy now?

bileduct bileduct 4:20 pm 02 Nov 09

moneypenny2612 said :

Wow. The complacency shown by some of Canberra’s landlords here is a bit surprising.

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 – SECT 115
Resident must not install fixtures without consent

115. Resident must not install fixtures without consent

A resident must not install any fixtures in the room or rooming house without
the prior written consent of the rooming house owner.

There doesn’t seem to be a section entitled “Unreasonable denial of request to install fixtures”. Perhaps you could help me find it?

Granny Granny 3:48 pm 02 Nov 09

bergamot said :

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*

I think what is particularly hurtful is the assumption in many of these comments that the family of the partner with a disability would be less responsible tenants than anybody else.

Being a carer is often like being a guide dog. All many carers know is responsibility. Irresponsibility is mostly a luxury reserved for other people.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but I wish landlords such as bergamot every good reward for their kindness and consideration to others less fortunate than themselves.

weeziepops weeziepops 12:50 pm 02 Nov 09

Most amusing but I am glad you didn’t suggest that Woody might be … a RENTER! While defending the rights of those who do not own property, Woody Boy was ever so quick to make sure everyone knows that he, himself, is an OWNER. While I enjoyed the use of “tough guy” and “lawbreaking legend” in his last post, I do feel he has let the Socialist team down with his quick claim to property ownership.

Cue John Lennon music…

justin heywood justin heywood 11:43 am 02 Nov 09

This just in:

Sound of telephone ringing. ‘Hello? Mr. Caruso?’

Woody: “Yes, Woody here”

Dorothy: “Oh hello, Mr. Caruso, Dorothy here from Random Rentals. Regarding your investment property at 25 Yellow Brick Road. We have 2 applicants. One is a married couple, no kids, both professionals.”

“The other applicants are a mixed group. They follow an ancient cult and would like the right to sacrifice a goat in a different room each full moon. They are of mixed Islander and Arab descent, all are gay although one has an Alpaca as a common law wife. They seem nice. Which group would you like to have in your house?”

Woody: “Why the mixed group of course. I don’t discriminate, and IT’S THE LAW’’.

Dorothy: “Oh Woody, you truly are a saint. There is no-one on earth as righteous as you.”

Woody: “Awww, don’t mention it…..on second thoughts, DO mention it. Tell everyone. Call the Chronicle. Call Bono. Tell everyone how wonderful I am”

Dorothy: “Oh Woody, I think I’m in love with you”

BZZT. BZZT. Sound of alarm clock. Woody wakes up.

PickedANickname PickedANickname 9:45 am 02 Nov 09

Thank you NoAddedMSG for the tips and bergamot I would be happy for you to have my contact details or have yours sent to me.

I haven’t rented for about 10 years. When I first rented you didn’t have open time for inspections, you just left a deposit with the property manager, took the keys, had a look and you had about 5 or 6 properties to look at. Then you just picked the one you liked.

In the real world discrimination exists. I can imagine a landlord wanting only people with the most money and the least amount of risk. I was just surprised at how the real estate agent actually gave that as the rejection reason.

Are any of the charities in the rental game like Salvos? I don’t think regular landlords are ever going to act as benevolent angels when they can be making hay while the sun shines in this tight rental market, but I am just looking for options to help my friend with.

Special G Special G 7:55 am 02 Nov 09

Would have rented to the chinese girls and let them know about the neighbour. They fit all the renting criteria and references checked out.

bileduct bileduct 11:54 pm 01 Nov 09

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

And I make the same offer to you – if you really believe you don’t have to justify yourself to anybody, be open and transparent about your discrimination to the relevant authorities and see what happens. Much easier to be a lawbreaking legend when nobody’s watching though, isn’t it, tough guy?

“Hello authorities, I just placed a dual income married couple in one of my properties. The other applicants were a single income couple earning barely enough to disqualify them from public housing. Both parties presented a satisfactory renting history, but I ultimately chose the dual income couple based on their financial position. Some hippies on the internet believe my actions are those of a criminal and have challenged me to report them to you.”

“Stop wasting our time.”

*click*

bileduct bileduct 11:41 pm 01 Nov 09

moneypenny2612 said :

At that time, I had been forced into unsatisfactory temporary accommodations while I tried to find another tenancy.

And so you should have!

You don’t get to decide which of your landlord’s specific requests are unreasonable and then simply ignore them.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 10:44 pm 01 Nov 09

….who just sounds like a ‘renter’

The inner north is just full of these people. An inability to bother saving for their own home fueled by a misguided sense of entitlement.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 9:44 pm 01 Nov 09

who just sounds like a ‘renter’

Bzzt – owner. I know – inconceivable that I could benefit from property but also feel the need to respect people’s legal rights – guess I’d make a lousy real estate agent. But thanks for playing anyway, and thanks for acting as an example supporting my argument. Your ability to make judgments about people you don’t know clearly sucks – as in, you were 100% wrong – so you’re better off going with evidence rather than relying on your gut, eh?

And I make the same offer to you – if you really believe you don’t have to justify yourself to anybody, be open and transparent about your discrimination to the relevant authorities and see what happens. Much easier to be a lawbreaking legend when nobody’s watching though, isn’t it, tough guy?

moneypenny2612 moneypenny2612 5:32 pm 01 Nov 09

Wow. The complacency shown by some of Canberra’s landlords here is a bit surprising.

deejay said :

According to the ATO, we are not running a business, we’re investors. I’m pretty sure investors are allowed to manage their risks and as they are not in business providing goods and services to people, they probably can discriminate.

Er, no. While property investment might not be your day job, the fact that you are offering to rent your property to a member of public means that anti-discrimination laws apply to that transaction. The ACT Discrimination Act has a section dedicated to accommodation (section 21). The nub of the issue is that if you are going to place exclusionary conditions on who you rent to (eg, no singles, no disabled, no Asians (or Asians-only for that matter), etc) those conditions need to be reasonable. Capacity to pay the rent is usually a reasonable condition. Broad stereotyping, much like criminal profiling, is not reasonable. You have to consider each tenancy application received on its individual merits.

Special G said :

Were we descriminating against the Chinese girls or acting in their interest?

Assuming the Caucasian sisters were your top picks anyway, if they had said No to your offer, would you then have offered the place to the Chinese girls, including info about the neighbour trouble, or would you have jumped to third on your shortlist?

vg vg 10:13 am 01 Nov 09

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

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

Put your money where your mouth is, ‘mate’. Next time you rent out your place, give all of the applicants a list showing exactly where they were ranked and how you selected the successful tenant. Write that you discriminated against somebody because they were married, or single, or black, or whatever. Make sure to use the words you used above so that it’s clear you’re above the law.

Oh, that’s right. Bigots are also gutless cowards, so you won’t.

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.

Got nothing to do with what I like – it’s the law. Amazing that you sorry specimens would freely flaunt one law but would expect protection under others. And if you think your personal biases are a better indicator of somebody’s capacity and willingness to pay their rent – more so than, say, I dunno, references from their last landlords, like every potential tenant has to provide – you’re an idiot. If somebody has references and a proven history as a good tenant, everything else is just prejudiced guesswork on your part.

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

Or maybe my parents just raised me right.

Or maybe they didn’t, and I’m just a law-abiding citizen. What’s your excuse? Are you ignorant trash who thinks it’s OK to discriminate on delusional commercial grounds, or a criminal who thinks the law should apply to other people but not you? You can tick both boxes if you like.

Actually the easiest way is to just choose who you like. You’re under no obligation to justify your decision to anyone, especially people like WMC….who just sounds like a ‘renter’

deejay deejay 10:01 am 01 Nov 09

According to the ATO, we are not running a business, we’re investors. I’m pretty sure investors are allowed to manage their risks and as they are not in business providing goods and services to people, they probably can discriminate.

I wouldn’t turn away a disabled person if serviceability wasn’t an issue. But nor do I feel a social obligation to take on less desirable tenants (economically or otherwise) as a private landlord. I pay tens of thousands in taxes every year for the government to look after those who can’t really afford private rental accommodation. (And yes, I have been very disadvantaged at other times in my life. I lived in horrible places and worked my way through government systems and never tried to rent a house I couldn’t afford).

Does the government do a good job of it? No, not always. But my response to that is to lobby for improvements, to comment on public enquiries, to vote with my one person’s vote. My response is not to threaten my own family’s future and our ability to be self-sufficient in retirement (and not an unnecessary drain on the government) by taking on inappropriate tenants.

Special G Special G 8:50 pm 31 Oct 09

Years ago we had some excellent tennants in our 2br unit. Paid the rent on time, looked after the place. When their second child was born, the maternal grandmother came over from China to help out. We were fine with all of this. Unfortunately the unit’s direct neighbour was not. She victimised and abused our tennants in racially motivated attacks. They eventually moved to get away from her, which really I can’t blame them!

Our delimma came when next looking for prospective tennants. We had a lot of interest, but when it came to offering the property to people our short list had on it 2 Caucasian sisters and 2 Chinese friends. Do we offer it to the Chinese girls and risk having then victimised and abused in the same way or do we offer it to the Caucasian girls? We ended up explaining the issues with the neighbour to the Caucasian girls before they signed the lease (so they were aware that there may be problems with the neighbour) and 3 and a half years on we still have happy tennants on a current lease.

Were we descriminating against the Chinese girls or acting in their interest?

sepi sepi 2:06 pm 31 Oct 09

As I said above – it is actually illegal to discriminate against tenants on race, or because they have children. It is perfectly legal to specify that you won’t have groups, pets or smokers.

But how could you ever prove it- unless they left the property empty rather than rent it to you. Which is not going to happen in the current rental market.

moneypenny2612 moneypenny2612 12:49 pm 31 Oct 09

OP – get in touch with the Tenants Union http://www.tenantsact.org.au/.

Being white, straight, married, disabled or Muslim has no bearing on whether a tenant can pay the rent or not damage the property. If a landlord or property manager is sorting applications on that basis, then that would appear to be inappropriate discrimination.

As for children or pets, well yes the risk of damage increases. That said, the usual tenancy agreement makes clear that the tenant is responsible for making good any damage they do that goes beyond fair wear and tear. That’s what bond is for – and if that doesn’t cover the cost of fixing damage, the tenancy division of ACAT is still landlord friendly and you can get relief there. (Check out the decision list – plenty of landlords get what they are after).

An investment property is not a display home. If you expect the people living in it to ‘look but don’t touch’ you are in the wrong line of investment. Perhaps you should try art instead. Or just leave your hard-earned money in the bank. Otherwise, if you are too lazy to bother defending your investment through the ACAT when it has been damaged that is your problem.

If a person habitually kicks holes in the wall, kills your garden, or sh*ts on the carpets, your reference check should discover that.

Note though that if you get a negative reference you are supposed double check it’s accuracy with the applicant tenant – it is basic natural justice. I found out I was being black-balled by a previous landlord because I had installed a single picture hook in the wall after he had unreasonably refused permission (I had promised to fully repair at the end of the tenancy). The next landlord I had was the only one who bothered to get my side of the story – including the fact that I had actually repaired the damage (paint-matching & all). At that time, I had been forced into unsatisfactory temporary accommodations while I tried to find another tenancy.

Postalgeek Postalgeek 12:24 pm 31 Oct 09

And don’t forget to give a set of keys to the house.

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