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Discrimination and rental matters

A rental provider cannot discriminate against a potential resident because of a personal characteristic.

It is unlawful to discriminate against a prospective renter or renter during their rental agreement. This has long been established under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 but has now been clarified and reinforced under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

Information to be given by rental provider about discrimination

From 29 March 2021 it is unlawful for a rental provider or their agent to ask a potential renter to provide certain information in a rental application form. This applies to rental accommodation, caravan parks, residential parks, rooming houses as well as residential premises.

A rental provider or their agent must not give a person an application form to apply to enter a residential rental agreement unless it includes a statement about unlawful discrimination as part of every application that a provider or agent asks a renter to fill out. This statement explains what discrimination is and lists some of the protective attributes that are prohibited in the rental market. The statement gives examples of unlawful discrimination practices. This includes refusing an application from someone who has children, or processing an application differently because a person has a disability, or requiring more bond because of a person's age.

See:

What can't be asked

It is unlawful to ask a prospective renter:

  • if they have ever had a dispute with or taken legal action against a rental provider
  • about the history of the renter's bond in previous rental accommodation (for example, whether the rental provider has had any of the bond deducted at the end of their tenancy)
  • to see bank or credit card statements
  • private information that is protected under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. This includes information about a person's:
    • age
    • employment activity
    • sex
    • lawful sexual activity
    • sexual preference
    • ethnicity
    • gender identity
    • religion
    • political beliefs
    • health, physical features, pregnancy, marital or parental status
    • disability.

Exception, if the rental provider or their agent wants to ask a person a question about a protected attribute, they must give a reason for doing so in writing,

Penalty

The maximum penalty for requesting any of the information prescribed is:

  • 60 penalty units for an individual
  • 300 penalty units for a body corporate

See:

What a renter can do about discrimination

If renters believe that they have been treated unfairly or less favourably than other people because of a personal characteristic they may make a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC).

They can also apply to VCAT for an order seeking compensation if they have suffered a loss as a result of discrimination by the rental provider.

The applicant can also now complain to Consumer Affairs Victoria.

If a person has suffered loss as a result of discrimination by a rental provider they can apply to VCAT for compensation.

See VEOHRC—Make a complaint(opens in a new window). and ss. 30A, 210AA—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window). and Compensation for wrongdoing by rental provider.

Discriminatory actions during the application process

The Residential Tenancies Act refers to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and now makes it clear that it is unlawful to refuse to let premises to a person based on a protected attribute.

See s. 30A—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Under Equal Opportunity Provisions

In addition to the tenancy provisions, based on any of the aspects set out s. 6 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic), it is illegal to:

  • refuse, or fail to accept, the person's application for accommodation
  • process the person's application in a different way from other applications
  • set out special terms on which accommodation is offered to the person.

See s. 52—Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Discriminatory actions in providing accommodation

When offering accommodation, it is also illegal to discriminate against a renter:

  • by varying the terms
  • by denying or limiting access to any benefit associated with the accommodation
  • by evicting the person
  • by refusing to extend or renew rent/lease
  • in the terms which the accommodation is extended or renewed
  • by subjecting the renter to any other detriment
  • by refusing to accommodate an assistance dog
  • by refusing to allow the renter to make reasonable alterations to accommodate their special needs
  • by refusing to allow the renter to make reasonable alterations to common property under an owners corporation (such as a block of flats).

See s. 53—Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Unlawful to discriminate when sub-letting

It is also unlawful to discriminate against a person when a rental provider is being asked to assign or sub-let their property

See s. 81(2A)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Discrimination and notices to vacate

It is illegal to discriminate against a person by choosing to issue a notice to vacate for a discriminatory reason. This applies to all of the 'no fault' bases for issuing a notice to vacate. Any notice to vacate that would constitute direct discrimination against a renter has no effect. Direct discrimination means treating a person with an attribute unfavourably because of that attribute.

The applicant would have to prove that they were discriminated against on the basis of that attribute.

See s. 91ZZI—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and s. 8—Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Restrictions on alternations to property

The renter or owner must meet the cost of the alterations to property or common property themselves and they must restore the common property to its previous condition when they leave.

See ss. 55, 56—Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)

  • s. 4—defines 'accommodation'
  • Part 4, Division 5—Discrimination in accommodation
  • s. 6—attributes
  • s. 8—defines direct discrimination
  • s. 52—discrimination in offering to provide accommodation
  • s. 53—discrimination in providing accommodation
  • s. 54—discrimination by refusing to accommodate an assistance dog
  • s. 55—discrimination by refusing to allow alterations
  • s. 56—discrimination by refusing reasonable alterations to common property in an owners corporation situation.

See Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)

  • s. 29C—information that must be given to a rental applicant
  • s. 30A—residential rental provider must not unlawfully discriminate by refusing to let premises
  • s. 81—prohibits discrimination when sub-letting or assigning property
  • s. 91ZZI—circumstances where a notice to vacate has no effect
  • s. 94F—rooming house operator must not unlawfully discriminate against another person by refusing occupancy
  • s. 145B—caravan park owner must not unlawfully discriminate against another person by refusing to grant agreement
  • s. 206JC—site owner must not unlawfully discriminate against another person by refusing to let Part 4A site
  • s. 210AA—application to VCAT for compensation order for discrimination

See Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window)

Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)

  • Form 3, Schedule 1—Statement of information for rental applicants

See Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC)

See VEOHRC—Make a complaint(opens in a new window).

Updated