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Vulnerable Victorians struggle to get private rental
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission today released a report that highlights the struggles vulnerable Victorians face when trying to access the private rental market.
Launched during Homeless Persons’ Week, the report, Locked Out: Discrimination in Victoria’s private rental market, shows that some tenants are having their applications for private rental properties continually rejected due to discrimination – because they are African, Aboriginal, gay and lesbian, have a disability or have children.
Acting Commissioner Karen Toohey said that such discrimination was unlawful under the Equal Opportunity Act, yet the research suggested real estate agents and landlords made stereotyped judgments about tenants.
“Landlords and real estate agents need to know that if they make decisions about who should be offered a property based on irrelevant personal characteristics such as race, marital or parental status, sexual orientation or disability, then they are breaking the law,” Ms Toohey said.
“While only one in five Australian households rents privately at a given moment, private rental is an essential and growing part of our housing system. However, our research shows that Victoria’s most vulnerable people and minority groups are locked out of the housing market.”
“Access to safe and secure housing is a basic human right. Our research found that people experience significant trauma as a result of not being able to find a place to call home.
“For example, people indicated they had developed mental health problems such as anxiety and depression due to their inability to secure private rental accommodation. It also meant they had trouble finding and keeping a job, and couldn’t provide a safe and secure environment for their children,” Ms Toohey said.
Out of a total of 165 survey respondents:
- 44 believed having children had prevented them from getting a rental property
- 38 believed their age had prevented them from getting a rental property
- 37 believed they had been refused accommodation at least in part because of their race
- 34 believed their marital status was an issue
- 27 believed their disability was an issue.
Ms Toohey said it is also clear from the findings that there is a lack of awareness about the ability to complain about discrimination in the private rental market, with many feeling powerless to do so.
“We found that most people didn’t make a complaint of discrimination because either they didn’t know they could complain, or they didn’t think it would make any difference if they did,” Ms Toohey said.
“I encourage people to contact the Commission if they feel they have been discriminated against and gain advice on the best action to take.”
The Commission has committed to work with the Real Estate Institute of Victoria and Consumer Affairs Victoria to raise awareness among agents and landlords about Victoria’s equal opportunity laws.
Read more about the research by visiting humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/privaterental
If you feel you have been discriminated against in the ACT private rental market you can make a complaint to the ACT Human Rights Commission here. Or to find out more about your rights as a tenant call the Tenants' Advice Service.