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By Editor's Desk, March 24, 2020, Categories: Slider

that a prospective tenant or buyer has the right to receive services in similar terms, manner, and quality from estate agents regardless of sex, marital status, pregnancy, disability, family status, or race?

For instance, an estate agent who refuses a prospective tenant or buyer request for a service, asks for a higher commission, quotes a higher price, or excludes property search because of any of the grounds mentioned would be violating Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination ordinances. A tenant also has the right to have access to all the housing facilities just like other tenants regardless of sex, marital status, pregnancy, disability, family status, or race.”

Case:

A Pakistani couple was looking for a flat to rent.  The husband speaks Cantonese but the wife speaks neither Cantonese nor English.  The wife took along a friend who was able to communicate with the agent to view flats.  There was one which seemed to suit their needs and the agent mentioned that the following documents would be needed to finalise the contract:

  • Salary proof
    • 2-month rent for initial deposit
    • Bank passbook

The wife agreed and signed the provisional tenancy agreement papers.  A week later, the agent called the couple and told them that the deal was off because the “landlord does not like letting (the apartment) to Pakistani people”. The couple were upset and asked for a refund of the $500 deposit.  The agent said that the deposit would be refunded when the provisional tenancy agreement was returned. When they did so, the agent tore the papers in front of them.  This was not the first time they had had to face such treatment.

The couple complained to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) against the agent and the landlord alleging race discrimination. The agent’s explanation was that the documents given were expired and that cast a doubt on the couple’s ability to pay the rent. The case was settled through early conciliation. 

The Law: Under the Race Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful for a landlord to refuse to rent his/her property or an estate agent to refuse to provide service to a prospective tenant because he/she comes from a certain race.

If a landlord refuses to rent a flat to me because he doesnt like the curry smell of Indian homes, is that considered discrimination?

Ans: If a landlord unreasonably refuses to rent his/her premises to anyone who cooks curry, this would automatically exclude Indians and Pakistanis as possible tenants. Even though the landlord has not mentioned any ethnicity in particular, the condition imposed, i.e. of “curry”, indirectly targets some groups of South Asians.  According to the Race Discrimination Ordinance, this would amount to indirect race discrimination and may be unlawful. 

The prospective tenant may lodge a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission against the landlord.  

If there is a concern that you need to address, feel free to send us your question and we will publish it with a reply in our next issue.

If you need further information regarding your rights under Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination ordinances and the complaint handling procedures of the EOC, please contact:

Equal Opportunities Commission

16/F 41 Heung Yip Road,

Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong

Hotline: 25118211

Email: eoc@eoc.org.hk

Website: www.eoc.org.hk

Office hours: Monday to Friday from 8:45 am to 5:45 pm

Niru Vishwanath
Ethnic Minorities Unit
Equal Opportunities Commission

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