Did you know that it’s illegal to discriminate against someone when renting out a property? As a tenant, you’ll find that you’re covered by the Human Rights Act and the Residential Tenancy Act. Fortunately, discrimination in the rental market is relatively rare. However, if you do suspect that you’re experiencing discrimination when renting a property, it’s handy to know what you can do about it.
What is discrimination when renting a property?
The definition of discrimination is when an individual is treated less favourably than another person who faces similar circumstances. In terms of renting a property, this can mean that someone refuses to rent to you. It can also mean that they’re unnecessarily unfair during the rental process. For example, not meeting their obligations as a landlord, or terminating a tenancy unfairly.
Landlords who are renting a property cannot discriminate against someone on the following basis:
- Marital status, gender, or sexuality
- Religious beliefs, ethical beliefs, race, or skin colour
- Where a person comes from, such as their nationality or citizenship status
- Age, political opinion, or employment status
- Having or not having children
Some examples of this include landlords refusing to rent to someone because they’re Catholics. Altering the terms of a tenancy because they suddenly fall pregnant and are therefore bringing a child into the household would also be unacceptable.
The Human Rights Act and the Residential Tenancies Act
If you do feel as though you’re being discriminated against, you can only challenge your landlord under one of these acts. Fortunately, both of them pertain to the situations described above.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act landlords cannot discriminate when:
- Deciding whether to grant or extend a lease
- Making alterations to an existing tenancy agreement
- Choosing between terminating and renewing a tenancy
For example, a landlord cannot ask a property management company not to rent to an unmarried couple.
What happens when a landlord does discriminate?
When a landlord does discriminate, they can face a fine of up to $4,000. If you feel as though you’ve been discriminated against, you can use one of the above acts to do something about it. This means approaching either the Human Rights Commission or the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment. The one you choose should depend on which act you want to take advantage of.
How can landlords ensure they’re adhering to the right legislation when renting out a property?
Unfortunately, many people discriminate without realizing they’re doing so. While the vast majority of landlords won’t discriminate on the basis of race, sexuality, or gender, some may flout some of the less obvious rules of the Human Rights Act without realizing.
For example, a landlord may have had a bad experience with a tenant who had children, causing them to decide they no longer want to rent to parents. Or, they may have had a single person be a particularly disruptive tenant. Both of these examples are not good enough reasons to discriminate against a tenant. The actions of one tenant from a particular group do not reflect on how future tenants will behave.
To prevent discrimination, landlords should check their reasoning for not renting to a tenant against the Residential Tenancies Act and the Human Rights Act. If you’re either a landlord or a prospective tenant, you can rely on a property management company to offer a fair overview of what is and isn’t legal.