Kamis, 18 Juni 2009

The Curse of the Wolfman: discrimination in rental housing

The Brown Couch notes with concern reports in today's sports pages that Manly Sea Eagles winger and tenant, David 'Wolfman' Williams, has had applications for tenancies declined by bigoted landlords and real estate agents. According to the Herald:

"I got rejected from like seven places because I was under 25 … and a footballer," the 22-year-old said.

(David 'Wolfman' Williams, tenant.)

Your correspondent at the Brown Couch does not follow Williams' game, being instead a devotee of Australia's national football code (go Hawks!), but I do feel a strong sympathy for the man, born of a common experience. As an employee of the Tenants' Union, I too have had more than my share of applications for tenancies refused where I have disclosed my occupation.

Discrimination in the provision of rental housing in New South Wales is subject to State and Federal anti-discrimination legislation. Under each of these regimes, discrimination on grounds of race, sex and a number of other factors is illegal; unfortunately, neither of these regimes prohibits discrimination on the ground of occupational status. The Australian Capital Territory's Discrimination Act 1999, however, does prohibit discrimination on grounds of a person's 'profession, trade, occupation or calling' (s 7(1)(m)). This measure should be extended to citizens of New South Wales and Australians generally. The Wolfman and his similarly affected colleagues should not have to move to the Canberra Raiders in order to get housed.

Williams' comments indicate that another factor may be involved in the discrimination he has experienced: his age. Discrimination on this ground is generally prohibited by both State and Federal legislation. Williams and anyone else who is knocked back for rental housing because they are too young, or because 'the landlord really wants a family to move in' or some similar excuse, should consider contacting the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board or the Australian Human Rights Commission to find out more about making a complaint.

Williams says that despite the prejudice he encountered he is 'in a good place now', and the Brown Couch wishes him well as he settles into his home.