Migrants facing “ethnic food” prejudice when renting homes

Migrants facing ethnic food prejudice when renting homes

Just days before moving into their East Auckland rental, an Indian family was told that they could only cook their “aromatic” food in the garage, Stuff reports.

While prepping western meals was allowed in the kitchen, curry was an ‘unwanted guest’. By that point, the family said that walking away wasn’t an option, as they were desperate for accommodation in the hot rental market. But was there a way out?

Barriers to the property market

According to Sunil Kaushal, president of the Waitākere Indian Association, it’s just one of the unique challenges faced by Indian nationals when trying to find a home.

Income is one of the main hurdles, with Indians’ average income being around $50,000 in 2018, compared to $55,400 for all ethnicities. To make matters worse, Indian migrants tend to live in some of the most expensive urban areas, especially Auckland and Wellington.

The combination of high rents and low incomes makes saving for a home deposit out of reach for many Indian families. And securing a tenancy isn’t all that easier, either.

At least one Indian national admitted to using his wife’s European-sounding maiden name to maximise their rental opportunities in Tauranga. Not that they felt comfortable doing that, but it seemed like the only option to get a roof over their head.

Real estate agents had often asked them where they were from, and “not in a polite manner.” Also, a previous landlord raised issues towards cooking Indian food in the property, even providing detailed information as to what cleaning product would get rid of the ‘curry smell’.

When stir-fry caused a stir

In 2019, a TradeMe listing for a three-bedroom townhouse in Mt Roskill, Auckland, sparked outrage for requesting tenants to avoid stir-fry cooking methods. TradeMe quickly removed the online ad, deeming it discriminatory.

But at least in that case, it appears the remark was made in good faith. The landlord explained they weren’t aware it was illegal to single out stir-fry cooking, calling it a preference rather than a requirement, due to its oiliness. In fact, the landlord himself was actually Asian.

Your rights when renting property

It’s important to know that discrimination when renting out a home is illegal when it breaches the Human Rights Act. According to Tenancy Services NZ, landlords cannot choose, treat, or kick out tenants based on:

  • gender
  • religious or ethical beliefs
  • race or colour
  • nationality, ethnicity, origin or citizenship
  • physical or mental disability or illness
  • age
  • political opinion
  • employment status eg, if unemployed or on a benefit
  • marital and family status – including any responsibilities for dependants
  • sexual orientation.

Do you feel you’re being discriminated against as a tenant? Then, you can either make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal, or make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. Please note, you cannot do both.