23 Jul 2020

Landlord racism: Wahine Māori exposes prejudice with name change

5:57 pm on 23 July 2020

A wahine Māori has caught a racist landlord red-handed, after she was rejected for a property and then re-applied with a Western name.

14588891 - rental agreement form with signing hand and keys and pen

File photo. Photo: 123RF

Te Iwi Kemp, of Ngāti Kahu, an insurance broker who moved back to Christchurch in the past year, is flatting and wants to find a new rental in time for the arrival of her moko.

She was not having much luck, with many landlords not replying and, when she did get a reply, she was told the property she was asking about was unavailable.

Her friend suggested using a Pākehā name - and she got a prompt text reply and then a phone call.

"I thought I'd test it and I text those properties that I previously applied for using a different name and, half an hour later, I got a response from a landlord saying the property was still available."

"I thought, wow, this guy text me half an hour ago to say it was gone."

She decided to confront him on the phone and told him he had just rejected her when she applied with her Māori name.

"He just cracked up laughing and said 'well, to be honest I don't want your type in my house.' I said, what's my type, and he said, 'well, you're a Māori.'"

The landlord told her that her people did not know how to look after houses and were involved with gangs and drugs.

She said the conversation went on until he ended up swearing at her and hanging up.

"I was shocked. Completely flabbergasted."

Kemp emailed Trade Me to complain about the man, she received a brief reply.

The next day she couldn't find his profile or the original listing - but TradeMe said that was not its doing.

RNZ tried to contact the man but his phone appears to be disconnected.

Kemp plans to follow up with Trade Me to find out more information about the man and what has since happened to the listing.

Trade Me's Acting Head of Trust & Safety, Logan Mudge, told RNZ it had yet to speak with Kemp, but would assist in any way they could.

"We don't tolerate any racism or discrimination on our site, and we take this seriously."

He said it was very rare but, if any of its members experienced discrimination of any kind on Trade Me, it recommended they contact the customer service team.

Mudge said discipline could range from editing listings to banning members outright.

"Trade Me has a number of tools in the background to monitor listings across the site and will check anything out that raises a flag in our system or where our members have hit the 'Community Watch' button at the bottom of the listing," Mudge said.

Discrimination is unlawful under the tenancy law when it breaches the Human Rights Act.

A tenant who thinks they have been discriminated against can either make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission or an application to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Kemp said she was aware of options of going ot the Human Rights Tribunal or the Tenancy Tribunal.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said this was, unfortunately, not an isolated incident.

He encouraged Kemp to file a complaint to the Human Rights Commission - and also said sharing stories of racism was also powerful.

"This action, of putting it out in the public, is a good call as well because people need to know about it and people need to be aware."

Kemp, meanwhile, is still on the hunt for a house.

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