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IT’S 2018, but there are still landlords and agents who discriminate against a certain race simply because of preconceived notions about them, says Jamilah Lim in a Facebook posting.

“I cannot, in good conscience, allow this disgusting discrimination to take place. I can rent houses easily simply because I happened to be born in the correct race?”

It is quite common in Malaysia for those looking to rent a house or apartment being asked about their race.

“If you are a landlord, you will want to know who your tenant is. Nobody is going to let out their property without knowing much about the prospective tenant.

 

“This is not an issue of the agents. They are asked to ‘screen’ the prospective tenant before allowing them to view the unit. The agents, despite feeling uneasy about asking such a question, have no choice as this is their bread and butter. Even websites post ads mention that a certain race is preferred,” said a property agent from a top real estate consultancy firm in Kuala Lumpur.

He added that this issue is not just a recent phenomenon.

Landlords’ racial preference is mostly due to stereotypes that if they are of a particular race they must rent only to the same race, or bad experiences with a particular group, he said.

Wong Whei Meng, the chief executive officer and founder of property rental platform Speedrent, said:

“We commonly hear that ‘this race is like this, that race is like that’. Such generalisation makes our lives more difficult than it should be. Go through countless property listings and you will find that 90 per cent have this specific requirement: ‘Chinese/Malay tenants only’. There will never be a justification for this behaviour.”

Wong said he has been renting his property to a Nigerian named Stan for a year and is happy with him.

“He is soft spoken and polite, pays his rental on time and has never created any troubles. Are there other Nigerians like Stan? Of course, there are. But what we normally see, thanks to the media, are horror stories focusing on a certain group of people.

 

“Although horror stories about tenants of a certain race do happen, we can’t generalise the whole race based on a few bad apples. Just like the man in Sunderland who hurled water bottle at me — it doesn’t mean that all Brits are hostile when they meet someone who looks different from them.”

He said at Speedrent he has encountered many landlords listing their racial preferences, instead of more objective filtering criteria.

Wong said what is important is to find out more about a tenant’s profession, reasons for moving out of the previous property, who the tenant will be sharing the property with, as well as getting their consent to obtain their credit score from credit reporting agencies like RAM Credit Information Sdn Bhd and CTOS Data Systems Sdn Bhd.

“The legendary American TV host David Letterman once said during an interview with former United States President Barack Obama that the definition of racism is just the difference in skin colour. In all fairness, it’s the person’s behaviour that defines him, not his race,” he added.

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