An Indian couple and their cousin living in New Zealand have lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission after their application to secure a rental property was declined based on their ethnicity.
The applicant trio, Rashmi Raorane, her partner Aditya Panikkar and her cousin Siddharth Chaukekar who had come to New Zealand at different times wanted to move in together a new place, but their application was declined by the owner stating ‘the landlord does not want Indian tenants’.
Rashmi Raorane from Mumbai, India, pursuing a Masters in Teaching from Auckland University of Technology, her partner who moved here last year and her cousin applied for a rental property in Pakuranga with Jing Hong Property Management.
Rashmi received a call from Jane Zhang from the property management company with the news that her application to rent the property was declined. Zhang denied saying that the prospective tenants had been turned down because the landlord believed that ‘all Indians were dirty’, and said she was referring to the landlord’s previous ‘poor experience’ with Indian tenants, NZ Herald reported.
The incident has shocked the prospective tenants following which she has lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. Both Aditya and Siddharth are on full-time work.
Rashmi said while making the application the property management representative Zhang told that the landlord of the house was looking for full-time working tenants and they match the criteria stipulated by the owner.
However, Rashmi received a call in the evening from Zhang stating the bad news.
Rashmi narrated her story to several of her friends who revealed that they were not surprised by this news.
Rashmi’s friends told her that it was prevalent and most of them have experienced this ‘silent-racism’ when looking for houses to rent. Rashmi’s friends recalled that they had to look at least 10-20 houses before securing one to rent.
“All South Asians – Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lanka – have trouble [looking for properties],” the applicants told NZ Herald.
Rashmi added that Zhang didn’t realise that what she was saying was ‘offensive’.
Zhang told the NZ Herald that the landlord could not speak English.
Rashmi has however, found a place to rent in the Pakuranga area earlier this week before the news of ‘alleged-racism’ came out in the media.
“I saw another property through a different agent on the same day I visited the said property that declined my application and I received a call from them on Monday that my application to rent the property has been accepted,” Rashmi told The Indian Weekender.
“This property [newly rented] is close to the primary school where I teach and it is convenient for me and my partner and my cousin and we will occupy it by this weekend,” Rashmi added.
As per Government agency Tenancy Services, it is against the law to choose tenants based on their race, ethnicity, colour, nationality, origin or citizenship.
Jennifer Skyes, Information and education manager for housing and tenancy services from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said that discrimination is unlawful under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) as it is a violation of the Human Rights Act.
“Discrimination is unacceptable, and anyone who has experienced this type of behaviour can seek advice from Tenancy services or HRC on what they can do next.,” Jennifer Skyes told NZ Herald.
“Landlords need to understand that it is unlawful for anyone to discriminate when deciding whether to grant the tenancy, continue or change an existing tenancy, or end a tenancy,” Skyes said.
Meanwhile, a Human Rights spokesperson said they are not able to confirm or deny whether they have received a complaint as the complaints process is confidential.
“Anyone who believes they have been discriminated against can complain to the Kuman Rights Commission by calling our confidential service on 0800 496 877 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org,” they said.
One can also complain to Tenancy Services on 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262) or visit www.tenancy.govt.nz.