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Protection from discrimination claims

20 March 2017

Principals should have a documented policy in place setting out the requirements of the anti-discrimination law to educate and protect their agency from claims by current or prospective tenants.

Professional Indemnity insurer Realcover recently received details of a claim against a property manager for allegedly rejecting a single father of three children who had enquired about renting a property. The claimant alleges he was not considered for the property because of his single parent status.

The Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW is currently reviewing the case and a conciliation meeting has been arranged to try and resolve the complaint.

Realcover Claims and Compliance Manager Nancy Rainbird said: “Discrimination is a very serious matter and real estate agencies who don’t take the legislation seriously can be brought before the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW. Ultimately, an award of damages could be made in favour of the aggrieved party.

“It is important to have a documented policy in place that all staff are trained on to help avoid any claims being made against your agency or property managers.

“Property managers in particular are at risk of discrimination claims if they are unaware of the relevant laws when leasing a property and need to make sure they comply with it at all times.”

What does the law say?

NSW Fair Trading says a landlord has the right to choose the most suitable tenant providing no unfair discrimination occurs.

The anti-discrimination laws state that an agent must not discriminate against anyone, or harass them, because of their:

  • race 
  • gender
  • pregnancy
  • marital status 
  • disability 
  • sexuality 
  • age 
  • transgender (transsexual).

Agents can be found guilty of discrimination if they follow their landlords’ instructions which illegally discriminate against tenants. If an agent is asked to act unlawfully, they should refuse to carry the instruction out and make it clear they can be fined and have their licence reviewed.

However, there is no law to stop agents rejecting applications if they do not want tenants who are smokers, have pets, a poor tenancy history, or do not think they can pay the rent.

NSW Fair Trading also recommend agencies make sure their staff are aware of the discrimination law and do not discriminate in their dealings with tenants.

If they do, the agency may be legally liable for their unlawful actions unless it shows it took all reasonable steps to prevent them doing so.

A video on the anti-discrimination laws and how they affect agents when renting out a home is available from NSW Fair Trading here.

For more information, please visit the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW here.