TenantsTips / Australia / Discrimination when renting a property

Discrimination when renting a property

Discrimination can be defined as the unfair treatment of a person based on their sex, nationality, race or status.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination can be defined as the unfair treatment of a person based on their sex, nationality, race or status. Discrimination can take on a number of forms; common forms of discrimination include people being treated unfairly or unjustly because of one or more of any of the following:

  • Sexual preference
  • Sexuality
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Sex
  • Race

The law and discrimination:

The law prohibits discrimination and many acts have been put in place in an attempt to eradicate discrimination. As a tenant you are protected by many laws including the following:

  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Commonwealth)
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
  • Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)

If you experience discrimination from a landlord, agent or potential landlord you are not expected to tolerate this treatment. Many instances of discrimination by landlords are actually unlawful. Under current law, measures have been taken to ensure that landlords do not discriminate against potential and existing tenants. The following list outlines landlord responsibility in terms of discrimination:

  • A landlord must not alienate or exclude a particular group of people from applying for a property which is advertised as available for rent.
  • A landlord must not refuse to rent a property to a person because they belong to a particular group of people.
  • A landlord must not discriminate by withholding any benefits associated with your rental property.
  • A landlord must not sexually harass a tenant or potential tenant.
  • A landlord must not discriminate against you by ending your tenancy because of your age, race, sex or sexual preference.

Sexual harassment:

Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination which can take on many forms. All types of sexual harassment are unacceptable and should not be tolerated. If you experience any sort of sexual harassment before, during or after a tenancy you should report it to the appropriate authorities.

Types of sexual harassment include:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances.
  • Unwelcome sexual requests or suggestions.
  • Unwelcome sexual conduct.
  • Sexual behaviour which intimidates humiliates or offends.


If you live in shared accommodation there are often exceptions to the general rule regarding discrimination. However, this does not mean to say that you should tolerate discrimination in any case. It is necessary to be aware of circumstances where there are exceptions. For example, if a property is designed specifically to accommodate a certain group of people then it is not regarded as an act of discrimination to favour target tenants.

If a property is tailored towards older tenants it would not be seen as discriminatory to turn down applications from young tenants.

Shared accommodation often necessitates exceptions, and it is advised to check your rights with your local tenant advisory service for clarification.


If you experience any form of discrimination in relation to tenancies you should report the incidence.

Complaints can be made to the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales or the Australian Human Rights Commission. Complaints to the ADB should be made within 6 months and complaints to the AHRC should be made within 12 months.

Both organizations offer advice about how to make a complaint and will assist you through the complaints process.

Written complaints received by the ADB are investigated by a conciliation officer. They will contact the landlord in question and give them the opportunity to respond to the complaint. If the ADB find evidence of discrimination they will set up a conciliation conference where both parties can meet under the mediation of the conference officer in an effort to solve the problem.

This may involve an apology or compensation from the landlord.

If a solution to the problem cannot be reached the matter may be referred to the Equal Opportunity Division of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal of NSW for a more formal hearing.

Further information & advice:

You can seek information and advice on discrimination from a number of organizations and help centres. If you experience discrimination you can contact any of the organizations listed below for help and guidance.

You should contact the organization that relates most closely to the type of discrimination you have experienced.


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