Renters claim discrimination

Single mother and disability pensioner, Rachelle Anderson-Edwards, has attended more than 100 house inspections and applied for more than 30 properties in her hunt for a home to rent, but is yet to be approved for any of them. 

A property ready to be rented. Photo: Johannah Hickleton

Despite receiving one of the most secure benefit payments available, Rachelle claims real estate agents and property owners are immediately bypassing her applications once they read she is on a disability pension. 

“They just see ‘Centrelink’ and think ‘no’ or ‘unemployed’ and ‘they’re not doing anything to improve their situation’,” Rachelle said. “I’m not a person who gets their disability pension and sits back and does nothing.” 

Rachelle has seven years of rental history in her current house, following eight years at a previous residence, as well as a five-star tenants review, leading her to believe her form of income is inhibiting her from securing a rental property. 

“I’ve rung them and asked why, they tell me the owner is looking for a particular type of person,” Rachelle said. “It’s like a slap in the face and I feel like it’s discrimination of the highest form, but how do you prove it?” 

Rachelle continues to attend inspections and refuses to give up hope, but the consequences are beginning to take their toll on her mental health. 

“I end up having a massive breakdown over every text message rejection, and I can’t stand the thought of having to put all my stuff into storage and surrendering my animals to live in a hotel,” Rachelle said. 

Karen Taranto, housing and justice policy advisor for the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), is not surprised by claims of discrimination, despite protections in place to prevent these occurrences. 

“Because of the current market situation, rental providers and property managers on their behalf can act in this way and face no repercussions,” Karen said. “That power imbalance means renters can’t really assert their rights and property managers aren’t being held to account for breaches of the law.” 

Consumer Affairs Victoria states that it is currently illegal for rental providers to discriminate against particular applicants, however they are not legally required to disclose any reasoning behind who they choose.   

“There’s just assumptions about what kind of tenant someone disadvantaged would be once they’re housed and it’s really easy for rental providers to make decisions based on those assumptions, and very difficult to hold them to account,” Karen said. 

Not only are some renters facing alleged discrimination, they’re battling a whole other issue: there just aren’t enough rental properties to meet demand. 

A recent report by PropTrack found a 52% decrease in vacant rentals across Australia between March 2020 and February 2023, bringing the national vacancy rate down to just 1.47%. 

PropTrack Senior Economist Eleanor Creagh, said the rental supply could not keep up with rental demand and properties were being claimed at record speed. 

“There are far fewer properties available so there’s very limited choice at a time when demand to rent is strong and it’s outstripping that supply so that’s creating very competitive rental markets,” Eleanor said. 

And the fight is far from over, as Eleanor states that the solution is much easier said than done. 

“Without any meaningful increase to the supply of available rentals, there’s no release valve to bring reprieve for renters, so in the long run the solution is more supply but that takes time,” Eleanor said. 

As an organisation, VCOSS acknowledges it will never know the extent of discrimination in the renting sphere, but it recognised it as an issue as it continues to work towards the next phase of regulating the rental market.



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