A landlord’s right to choose

A landlord’s right to choose

You own the property, you should have the right to choose who lives there.

This proposition sounds simple enough but it is not quite true. Federal and State anti-discrimination laws have a huge influence over a landlord’s choice of tenant. However, there is some room to move.

What a landlord can’t do

A landlord cannot reject an application, charge higher rent, charge higher bond or terminate a tenancy based on ANY of the following:

  • Gender
  • Relationship status
  • Pregnancy
  • Parental status
  • Breastfeeding
  • Age
  • Race
  • Impairment
  • Religious beliefs or activities
  • Political beliefs or activities
  • Trade Union activities
  • Lawful Sexual activities
  • Gender identity
  • Sexuality
  • Family Responsibilities
  • Association with or relation to a person identified on the basis of any of the above attributes

What a landlord can do

A landlord is entitled to make decisions about the tenancy on business and risk management grounds. Let’s say a property has some features that are not child friendly. For example, it is unfenced and fronts fronts a busy road. Maybe it is a pole house on side of a mountain. It is legal for the landlord to reject the application if the tenants have young children who will be living in the property. You are making this decision on risk management grounds. What if they run onto the busy road? What if they fall from the verandah?

Rental affordability is another legal grounds for discrimination. A landlord is entitled to reject an application on the basis that the applicant is not able to afford the rent given the information disclosed on the application. The industry standard is that rent should be no more than 33% of the household income.

Applications can also be rejected from people who smoke, have pets (though this one is under threat in many jurisdictions) or if you have concerns about the tenant’s ability to maintain the property. As long as these concerns are not derived from the attributes listed above.

Does a tenant have to be told why they’re getting rejected?

Generally speaking, no. Though if the basis relates to a risk management issue, safety concerns, affordability etc, a landlord should be prepared to explain the reason.

If an application is being rejected because of the results of a search of a tenancy database, then the applicant must be advised of this.


Related posts:

5 questions to ask a potential tenant

How to process a tenant application

Diane Bukowski

When I first started my company eezirent I wrote a small online newsletter for private landlords in Australia. It explored the common problems landlords encounter when self-managing. This simple publication has now grown into Honest Broker.

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