Racist ads exploit loophole to seek flatmates
RACIST tenants are exploiting a loophole in NSW rental laws to post a barrage of discriminatory yet legal ads seeking only housemates who fit their strict racial, ethnic or religious preferences.
The ads have appeared across a range of online classified sites requesting flatmates for share houses in Sydney's inner city and surrounding suburbs, as well as in the city's southwest.
A review of listings on Gumtree alone revealed multiple ads using the terms "Asian-only", "Indian-only" and "Muslim-only", among others, for describing eligible house mates.
The bulk of the ads appear to be posted by people originally from the Indian subcontinent, East Asia or the Middle East.
One brazen ad for a two-bedroom apartment in Wiley Park states that if the room is rented by two people "they have to be a Bangladeshi Muslim couple". A listing in Chippendale reads "1 bed available for only Asian girl", while a city ad specifies "Chinese-only".
A home at Hebersham in Sydney's southwest is listed "for Pakistani OR Indian OR Bangladeshi Family Only".
Even in Bowral, in the southern highlands, an ad for a room in a two-bedroom apartment states: "I will only consider a MUSLIM". Other examples include a Gumtree ad for a property near Blacktown Hospital that states it's a "Furnished Room for Indian" and "Only for indian Please" (sic). A $350 room in the city is advertised for "Asian female only" while a property near Town Hall station says an "Asian required".
The designations are permissible under state laws because they were posted by tenants seeking housemates and not by landlords or rental agencies, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board said.
A special clause in section 20(3) of the Anti-Discrimination Act states the laws don't apply to those providing accommodation if they or a "near relative" lives on the premises.
A spokeswoman for the Anti-Discrimination Board said some may consider the adverts offensive but they were permissible. "It's discrimination but it's not unlawful discrimination," she said.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the exception has existed since the act was introduced in 1977. "There are no immediate plans to change (it)," he said.
Landlords and real estate agents, meanwhile, must adhere to anti-discrimination laws. The legislation states it is unlawful to discriminate against a person renting or seeking to rent a property because of their race, sex, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, age or transgender status.
The majority of those posting discriminatory share house ads refused to comment but some said they were merely being honest about their preferences.
Others said they were uncomfortable sharing homes with people outside their ethnic or racial group and believed they had done nothing offensive.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane confirmed house sharers were not breaking any laws, even if their actions went against the spirit of multiculturalism. "Most of us would have friendships that cross ethnic and racial lines," he said. "We should hope that people can be comfortable with having those from different backgrounds living under the same roof."
Gumtree could not be reached for comment, though a section on its website said it was company policy to remove offensive ads from the site.