Category Archives: Anti Discrimination

Mandatory “No Bias, No Discrimination” National Tenancy Application

Tenants right across Australia know all too well the kind of discrimination that can be experienced when applying for rental accommodation and signing tenancy leases.

The tactic, often employed by landlords and agents, is to divert from the standardised tenancy agreement and ask questions that could be used to discriminate against tenants, without having to disclose why they have declined an application.

While discrimination laws forbid some of these questions, it does not stop it and other sneaky methods of questioning and interviews from occurring. Just some examples of these have included:

  • Marital Status
  • Gender
  • Children
  • Pets (read our pet policy)
  • Number of Occupants
  • Bank Statement
  • Nationality
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Health Condition
  • Religious / Political Beliefs
  • Social Housing / Welfare history
  • Apprehended Violence Order disclosure

A tenancy application is designed to determine an applicant's financial capability and renting record only. This is for the purposes of approving a would-be tenant. These kinds of questions above do not provide any information which should aid in that decision, with exception to discriminating against the applicants for their legal lifestyle choices and/or circumstances. This is not acceptable!

It is our view that not only should asking these questions be illegal (and in some cases, they already are) - but landlords and agents should not be allowed to use their own tenancy application forms which vary from a standardised form that ensures tenants cannot be discriminated against.

Tenants should only have to provide enough information to demonstrate their capability to rent and tenants should be allowed to have a family of any size, so long as it fits within the council regulations and strata bylaws for the type of dwelling and size.

Mandatory "No Bias, No Discrimination" National Tenancy Application

Under our policy to nationalise renting laws across Australia (see National Tenancy Body) we will implement a mandatory national tenancy application form and tenancy lease.

These mandatory forms will be limited to asking the following of the applicant's personal information:

  • Name of applicant(s)
  • Contact information (e.g. telephone, email)
  • Current address
  • Evidence of rental history
  • Evidence of ability to pay rent
  • Proof of identity: license ID number or other (e.g. passport or photo ID numbers)

Landlords and agents will not be allowed to limit the number of occupants as this is already determined through council regulation and strata bylaws for all types of residential dwellings and sizes.

Please help us put an end to the discrimination of tenants by joining our fight for tenant rights.

Please read about our National Tenancy Body, Anti Discrimination and Housing Affordability campaigns. We need you to join the fight for tenant rights!

Responsible Rental Pet Rights Policy

This policy has been developed with input from RSPCA Australia.

Tenant Rights wrote recently on "Why tenants MUST have the right to keep family pets" where key issues around renting with pets were highlighted. Tenant Rights spoke about the impact negative attitudes toward pets in rentals has for families, who are forced to give up their loved family members, and the volume of pets which are surrendered as a result.

Tenant Rights is pleased to see that pet ownership is an important issue for over 19,000 families who have shared this content to date - and still growing fast!

The Responsible Rental Pet Rights Policy, authored by Tenant Rights, aims to give tenants the right to keep pets in rental accommodation, whilst also ensuring important animal welfare needs are protected.

The current system assumes all pets will be a nuisance, or damage property, and so should not automatically be able to be accommodated in rental homes.

However, to our knowledge, this assumption is not underpinned or supported by research that indicates that property owners who accept pets in rentals are disadvantaged financially or in any other way by the fact that their tenants own pets.

Responsible Rental Pet Rights Policy

The Tenant Rights Party, along with the RSPCA, believes a pet can make a wonderful addition to your life. The social and health benefits of pet ownership are well recognised.

However, owning a pet is a lifetime responsibility. A dog or cat, for example, may live up to 15-20 years. Therefore, rental property tenants - like all Australians - should very carefully consider their ability to accommodate a pet for the entire duration of its life, before making the commitment to adopt a pet.

Tenants should carefully consider the type of rental accommodation they are likely to be able to afford and secure in the long term, and this should be a key factor in determining the type of pet they choose. The RSPCA can provide advice in this respect.

Tenancy agreements should automatically include a provision for tenants to keep pets, with some clear checks and balances to protect the owner's financial concern in their properties as well as the welfare of the animals. The provision may include an agreement to hold the tenants financially liable should any damages occur.

Where these checks and balances are followed by the tenant, the tenant will automatically have the right to keep their pet in rental accommodation.

This is designed to ensure that appropriate pets are automatically allowed.

Checks and balances

  1. For a new lease: Tenants must declare in writing, to the landlord or property manager, the number and species of pets that they intend to keep. This may be done;
    • At the time of applying, or
    • After being approved, but no later than seven (7) days before moving in.
  2. For an existing lease: Tenants must declare in writing, to the landlord or property manager, the number and species of pets they intend to keep, no later than fourteen (14) days before acquiring the pets.
  3. Tenants must be prepared to provide relevant pet's microchip, registration, vaccination status and whether it is desexed, to the landlord or property manager, in the written notice.
  4. Tenants should ensure their pets are compliant with relevant council regulations and strata by-laws at the intended residence, including with regard to registration, micro-chipping and desexing.
  5. A register that tenants, landlords and property managers can use to ensure that the number and species of pets proposed to live in the accommodation are in line with council regulations, while good animal welfare practices should be established. The register may also be used to report suspected animal abuse.
  6. Landlords or property managers may only reject the tenants' right to keep a pet if the declared pets do not meet with the council regulations or strata by-laws; if they believe there is a serious risk to the animal's welfare; or if there is damage sustained which has not been repaired by the tenant, within a reasonable time-frame, as determined by the National Residential Tenancies Tribunal.

Important Note: The Tenant Rights Party accepts that this policy applies a level of expectation and procedure which those who do not rent would not have to follow. It is our view that tenants should be treated equally and so it is openly acknowledged that this is less than perfect.

That being said - for many, many years - being allowed to have pets in rentals has been a strongly contested proposition, with little success. We believe this policy will work to prove that in fact, tenants are responsible pet owners and should have the right to keep their pets. This is a step towards the most ideal policy of: equality no matter if you are a tenant or not.

Please help us put an end to the senseless end of life and discrimination of tenants by joining our fight for tenant rights.

Please read about our National Tenancy Body, Anti Discrimination and Housing Affordability campaigns. We need you to join the fight for tenant rights!

Australian Constitution vs. Senators on marriage equality

First of all, let's call this so called debate in Parliament for what it actually is. It is an abuse of our Constitution, justice and democracy. Present and past Senators have openly allowed religious law, morality and ritual to dominate Parliamentary debate and influence law.

Religious laws, which oppose marriage equality are constitutionally illegal. It's right there in black and white. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act - Section 116 states:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth. Source.

Let's break that down, shall we? Here are the lawful meanings of these words.

  • Impose - to force on to someone an unwelcome decision or ruling
  • Religion - belief in a supernatural, Being, Thing or Principle; and second, the acceptance of canons of conduct (fundamental rules) in order to give effect to that belief
  • Observance - the practice of observing the requirements of law, morality or ritual

It's really straight forward. So straight forward, that any layperson understands the significance of this section of the Constitution.

Unfortunately the High Court has interpreted these prohibitions very narrowly. The High Court ignores the use of "or", and instead has interpreted this section to equate only to restrict the Commonwealth from "prohibiting the free exercise in any religion". This is quite simply narrow-minded and wrong, as it violates a simple English grammatical disjunctive. The use of OR, in fact, creates a list of mutually exclusive options. This law must be applied more broadly.

The current High Court interpretation is narrow-minded, pointless, and out of touch.

If you were to take away those who object based on these grounds, you would be left with a very small pocket of others who object on other irrational grounds (e.g. Homophobia).

Some Australians believe that their right to exercise religious freedom should come before the law on imposing religious observance. They believe it as an oxymoron and cannot separate these laws in their minds. However, when presented with the argument that "these laws also prohibit other religious faiths from imposing their views on all Australians, including themselves", they tend to begin to understand why the Constitution is indeed worth fighting for. This could set a dangerous precedence for their own religious freedoms.

So why does Parliament continue to entertain this? When slavery was abolished, or women given the right to vote, and other Human Rights and Equal Opportunity issues are presented, both Religious principal and hate-based opposition are set-aside.

Religious law and hatred should have no standing in Australian law.

To be clear, we are not suggesting those with religious views should not be allowed to express them. But we are suggesting that any laws which have been made on account of religious laws (and not as a result of an open or free debate) are constitutionally invalid.

Let's face it - the opposition is primarily based in religious principal.

It is time for a Royal Commission into Constitutional Violations

We will mandate a Royal Commission into this injustice and swiftly legalise marriage equality at a federal level.

By permitting unconstitutional argument to influence their vote in law reform (for example, the recent changes to the Marriage Act introduced by John Howard in 2004, proposed funding of a "NO" campaign in a plebiscite going to the Australian Christian Party and numerous Senators who admit their views are based on religious faith), present and past Senators who have been found to be involved must step-aside in a vote on marriage equality in the Senate.

Many tenants who are in same-sex relationships or do not identify as a gendered person are also often discriminated against and as such, we will also mandate that no application need ask for your marital status, under our anti-discrimination campaign.

The Government has committed $173,000,000 to hold a plebiscite (or public vote) which would give people with religious-based opinion and hate a voice. By cancelling this discriminatory vote and passing just law, money will be saved and could be spent on far better initiatives. I am sure an increased spend in shelter for the homeless, for example, ought to be a far worthier cause.

Please help us put an end to the discrimination in Australia by joining our fight for tenant rights.

Please read about our National Tenancy Body, Anti Discrimination and Housing Affordability campaigns. We need you to join the fight for tenant rights!

How we’ve TRAPPED domestic violence victims

With 1 in 4 Australian women and 1 in 12 Australian men reporting domestic or sexual violence in research conducted in 2012, it's time to have a look at the impact that tenant rights issues, housing affordability and discrimination has on victims of domestic violence.

Without access to fee-free government advice & support, fairer tenancy laws, a focus on anti-discrimination and housing affordability (all at a National level), tenants in Australia are often left feeling vulnerable and financially disadvantaged.

Victims of domestic violence even more so. I'll explain why.

If you need help now, please contact:

Police OR Ambulance:   000   Lifeline:   13 11 14   1800Respect Helpline:   1800 737 732   Kids Helpline:   1800 55 800

I asked Kathy (from Impact) if there had been an increase over the last 10 years of reported domestic violence. Kathy says, "We do know that, with the increased awareness of family violence, more and more victims are realising that what is happening to them is not only unacceptable, but illegal, and are feeling more empowered to put up their hands and ask for help."

But has enough thought been given to what happens after a victim has been brave enough to break free from domestic violence? There are other factors at play which would see victims endure violence over a longer period of time.

We have published a number of articles which explore issues of Discrimination, Renting for Life and tenancy issues, such as Bond Burglary.

Victims of domestic violence automatically fit inside the discriminatory profile as a "who not to rent to" applicant for being the sole applicant, often with children and even a family pet. As if these victims hadn't been through enough.

They are also at a disadvantage as being someone unlikely to have been allowed to save separately for a deposit bond (which is growing fiercely in line with high rents nationally), let alone a deposit to move into a new family home. Australia's housing affordability crisis is keeping victims inside violent domestic relationships and demonstrates the importance for the need for change in this area.

Added to the pressure of paying a new deposit bond tenants in domestic violence are often faced with thousands of dollars in expenses when they flee. Neither the law nor landlord are often understanding of the seriousness of what's going on and seek to breach the victim for breaking the lease.

The attacker has also been known to do what he or she can to destroy the rental in retribution for leaving, knowing this will have a financial impact on the victim - who is subsequently pursued by the law and landlord for damages as a signed party to the lease.

On the topic of refuge accommodation for victims, Kathy said, "This is a real problem. The funding model has not significantly changed since the 1980s. There is not enough specialised accommodation for the victims and their children needing and seeking it who are often housed in motels."

It's an eye opening reality when motels are the go-to option of many domestic violence victims and their children, instead of a place to call home. It's also true that domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness in families.

"No place to go. Housing is expensive, shelters are often at capacity and survivors can fear putting friends and family at risk if they stay with them when escaping an abuser," writes Barriers to Leaving.

Domestic violence victims are no better off when it comes to understanding their rights as a tenant and where to go to for help. I asked Kathy if victims understand their rights as a tenant, to which she replied, "Are any of us? I think the answer has to be 'no' but, at the same time, I'd like to point out that the case workers do their best in this regard."

What can I do to help free victims of domestic violence?

It's clear the high cost of renting and the housing affordability crisis in Australia is having a severe impact on victims of domestic violence.

Some landlords and agencies are also quick to discriminate against single parents and there is a lack of real support and advice for tenants nationally.

The Tenant Rights Party policies will put an end to this harsh reality. Help by joining the Tenant Rights Party.

Please read about our National Tenancy Body, Anti Discrimination and Housing Affordability campaigns. We need you to join the fight for tenant rights!