How can discrimination in accommodation happen?
Discrimination can happen when accommodation providers, such as real estate agents, landlords or vendors, treat you unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law by:
- refusing to sell or rent a property to you. For example, because you have children.
- processing your application in a different way to other applications for the same property. For example, because you have a disability.
- offering you a property on different terms or changing the original terms. For example, requiring a higher amount for the bond or requiring someone to be your guarantor because of your age.
- stopping you from accessing a benefit or facility that is available to other tenants. For example, because of your race or religion.
- refusing to extend or renew the terms of access to the property. For example, because you are a gay couple.
- evicting you. For example, because you become a single parent.
It is also against the law for accommodation providers to:
- refuse accommodation because you have an assistance dog. The term assistance dog applies to a dog trained to assist you with any disability or impairment, to alleviate the effects of that impairment, such as a guide dog or hearing dog
- require you to keep your assistance dog away from your accommodation
- charge extra for an assistance dog.
Alterations to premises for people with a disability
If you have a disability you can make reasonable alterations to the accommodation to meet your special needs if:
- you as the tenant pay for the alterations
- you as the tenant agree to restore the accommodation to its previous state before you leave
- the alterations will not alter the premises of another occupier. For example, a neighbour's property
- things can be put back to the way that they were before the alterations.
In some cases, a property owner may be required to make alterations to premises to help accommodate a person with disability, but only where this would not cause the owner 'unjustifiable hardship'.
To determine whether alterations would cause 'unjustifiable hardship' to the property owner, all the circumstances must be considered, including any benefit or detriment the adjustments may cause, the costs involved in making the alterations and the financial circumstances of the owner.
Examples of discrimination in accommodation
Tiffany meets with a real estate agent to look through a property she wants to rent. Tiffany has her two children with her and the agent advises that he cannot rent the property to her because her children are under five and likely to damage the property.
David speaks to a real estate agent on the phone about his application form for a rental property. The agent has seen David's surname and asks about his ethnic background. David hears from the agent the next day that his application was not successful. When David asks why, the agent says he's had problems with 'people from your country' in the past.
Make a complaint to the Commission
If you think you have been discriminated against, sexually harassed, or vilified, contact us and talk about your concerns. Our dispute resolution service is free and confidential. We can send you information about the complaint process and if we can’t help you we will try to refer you to someone who can.
To make a complaint:
- contact us by phone, in person or email. We also have a free interpreter service
- submit your complaint online or download our complaint form (DOC, 230KB).
Find out more about making a complaint.
More advice and information for anyone renting a home in Victoria is available on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.