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Rental Wrongs: The View from the Back of the Queue

In today’s cutthroat rental market, many Australians are facing the added hardship of rental discrimination. By Rachel Kurzyp. 


I wasn’t shocked by recent footage of a seemingly endless queue of people waiting to inspect a Melbourne rental property. 

This is what a national rental crisis and landlord’s market look like, driven by limited housing supply and low vacancy rates. 

More shocking to me is that thousands of community members have lost hope and no longer join the queue. 

People with disabilities, single parents, large families, the self-employed, LGBTIQA+ people, young tenants, refugees, and Indigenous Australians are experiencing higher rates of rental discrimination, making it near-impossible for many to secure affordable and long-term housing.  

The informal nature of our current rental market allows real estate agents and landlords to discriminate against tenants based on their personal preferences, perceived “risks” to properties, and outright prejudices.   

People who are single, white, non-disabled, have no pets or children, and have full-time employment are often seen as “low-risk”. When tenants are assessed, these candidates are quietly moved up the queue. 

There is no solid evidence that people who fall outside these narrow parameters are more likely to miss rental payments or damage a property. Yet many landlords feel they can discriminate against people they consider “unsuitable”, based on snap judgements or biased beliefs. 

In today’s cutthroat market, many marginalised renters don’t even get to see properties or speak with real estate agents, let alone apply.  

This is the experience of many Indigenous Australians and refugees who, despite having the funds to pay rent, are overlooked as tenants due to racist assumptions about “blackfellas” or supposedly “angry and war-torn” refugees.  

Unlawful racial discrimination remains a major hurdle for these groups. But strengthening anti-discrimination laws may not fix the issue, as many landlords will continue to be influenced by biased media stories, rejecting applicants who may well be model tenants.   

For single-parent families, rental affordability and lease lengths pose serious barriers. Many families are being forced into “invisible” homelessness – living in insecure temporary accommodation, including shelters, refuges, or boarding houses – because the cost of renting a family home exceeds 30 per cent of their income. That’s the benchmark real estate agents use to determine whether an applicant can afford the rent. 




Those who do manage to secure private rentals are often forced to accept short-term leases for less than of six months or less, or no lease at all. Until recently, this practice has allowed the property owner to hike up the rent in between tenants and list their property at inflated rates during the tourist season on Airbnb and Stayz. 

There is also the stubborn stereotype that single-parent families rely on government payments, making them a perceived “risk”. Thanks to this perception, there are cases where solo-parent applicants earning over $100,000 are being knocked back and forced into insecure housing.  

When I experienced homelessness in Hobart back in 2004, I secured an old but well-maintained two-bedroom inner-city apartment in just three weeks.  

I'll be forever grateful to our landlord who decided that two high school students living off Centrelink payments and a 15-hour-a-week waitressing job were worth the risk.  

And to the real estate agent who showed us through the property and submitted our application without so much as a raised eyebrow.  

When we moved out (by choice) two years later, my landlord called me and said we were the best tenants she ever had. 

In her recommendation letter, she told future real estate agents and landlords that they’d be idiots if they rented their property to someone else because of our age and income sources. 

We were offered every property we applied for, partly because of that letter. 

If I became homeless as a young person today, my story would be very different. 

In Victoria, the recent rental reforms have helped strengthen tenants’ rights. But nationally, the rental crisis has only gotten worse. 

Fixing the urgent shortfall in public and community housing, increasing rent assistance and income supports, and capping rental prices would help to ease the financial and housing hardship many renters face.  

But those measures won’t fix the problem of rental discrimination or tackle the broader inequalities of our current housing system. 

The whole idea of “queuing up” is meant to be about imposing order and equality when demand greatly outweighs supply.  

But there’s zero equality in our current rental market. And this won’t change until stronger policy measures to address discrimination are implemented and enforced. 

Until then, those of us at the back of the rental queue know the pickings will be slim when our turn finally comes. 


Rachel Kurzyp is an author, speaker, teacher, and marketing consultant. Knowing firsthand what it's like to be homeless, she believes everyone has the right to have a place they call home.

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