Discrimination when renting

Landlords and agents have the right to choose the most suitable applicant for the property but are not allowed to unfairly discriminate. In NSW, it is against the law to discriminate against:

  • race
  • sex
  • pregnancy
  • marital status
  • disability
  • homosexuality
  • age
  • transgender

If the landlord or agent does not want smokers, tenants with poor tenancy history or have an issue with rent payments, this is not against the law.

Direct discrimination

If a person is treated unfairly due to their race, sex, marital status etc, this is known as direct discrimination. For example, if a landlord refused to rent to you because you have children.

Indirect discrimination

If there is a rule, policy, practice or procedure that adversely affects a group of people, this is known as indirect discrimination. For example:

  • setting more restrictive standards, such as a higher than necessary income
  • having an across the board 'no pets' policy which also excludes the needs of disabled tenants, such as those with a guide dog
  • placing unrealistic restrictions on the number of occupants permitted which, for example, could exclude those who are pregnant
  • having a complicated and long application form which may, for example, deter recently arrived migrants from applying.

Unless this requirement is 'reasonable having regard to the circumstances of the case' (Anti-Discrimination Act) it is likely to be indirect discrimination.

Fair Trading Laws

Fair Trading Laws prohibit agents from misleading consumers when it comes to the supply of goods and services.

The following is an example that may be both discrimination and misleading conduct.

An Aboriginal person rings the real estate agent about a rental property. On the phone the agent tells the caller that the property is available. When the Aboriginal person goes to the office to lodge an application, the agent informs them that it is no longer available. Then a non-Aboriginal person asks the same agent and is told that the property is still available. In an actual case like this, the Administrative Decisions Tribunal ruled that the real estate agent was liable under anti-discrimination law and awarded $6,000 damages against the agent.

More information

Contact the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board on 9268 5555, 1800 670 812 or visit their website.

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