The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms access to adequate housing as a vital part of human rights. The Six Dimensions of Housing Adequacy is used by Statistics New Zealand, and Habitat for Humanity CNI to describe and identify what we mean by a “decent” place to live. General Manager Nic Greene outlines the tenets of each dimension. 

Discrimination means that those in housing need could miss out due to an unfair bias. Human rights – the basic rights and freedoms that every person is entitled to regardless of their age, ethnicity, culture, religion or sex is at the heart of discriminatory behaviour. We have all had issues with people at one time or another but here at Habitat, we believe in a world where everyone has a decent place to live. When landlords or agents discriminate they are treating a person unfairly, and some cases, they are degrading their human rights.

Previous negative experience with a tenant of a particular gender, religion, or race is not a valid reason to rule out future tenants.

A property owner or their agent who discriminates against people because of their race, age, sex, sexual orientation, family status, disability (or one of the other prohibited grounds) risks breaking the law. Sometimes ‘positive discrimination’ is allowed, an example of this is selecting pensioners for housing especially designed and funded for older people.

The Residential Tenancies Act makes it unlawful for anyone to discriminate when considering whether to grant a tenancy or deciding to continue, extend, or waive an existing tenancy. The Act also prohibits discrimination when deciding to terminate or renew a tenancy. It can happen during a tenancy if the landlord or agent makes comments that are discriminatory towards the tenants.

According to the Housing Rights Commission [1] and Tenancy Services [2], when providing accommodation, the Human Rights Act 1993 makes it unlawful to discriminate based on:

  • Sex – includes pregnancy and childbirth, and discrimination against transgender and intersex people because of their sex or gender identity.
  • Marital status – includes marriages and civil unions that have ended.
  • Religious belief – not limited to traditional or mainstream religions.
  • Ethical belief – not having a religious belief.
  • Colour, race, or ethnic or national origins – includes nationality or citizenship.
  • Disability – including physical, psychiatric, intellectual or psychological disability or illness.
  • Age – people are protected from age discrimination if they are over 16 years old.
  • Political opinion – including not having a political opinion.
  • Employment status – being unemployed, on a benefit or on ACC. It does not include being employed or being on national superannuation.
  • Family status – includes not being responsible for children or other dependants.
  • Sexual orientation – being heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian or bisexual.

If you are looking for that ‘ideal tenant’ and want to specify that in a rental advertisement, the criteria should focus on personal qualities rather than stereotypes or any preconceived idea. For example, if you consider an ideal tenant’ as one who is responsible, pays rent on time, is reliable and can provide references, focus on these traits in the requirements.

I would recommend outlining the qualities you would prefer and take a step back and relook at the advert to ensure you are not being unfair. At the end of the day we all want to be treated fairly and with dignity so keep that in mind.

If you have been discriminated against, unfortunately it can be difficult to prove. In the first instance talk with the landlord or agent directly. They may not know that they are discriminating against you, or it may be a misunderstanding.

A tenant who thinks they have been illegally discriminated against can either make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission or make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal.

[1] https://www.hrc.co.nz/enquiries-and-complaints/faqs/accommodation-property-landlords-and-human-rights/
[2] https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/starting-a-tenancy/tenancy-agreements/discrimination/