Will the new law stop rental market’s racial discrimination?

HOUSE or room hunting can be a daunting experience especially for non-chinese tenants. Despite Malaysia being known for one of the most multicultural nations in Southeast Asia, racial discrimination is still very much alive in the rental market.

Shelter is a basic necessity and guaranteed by the constitution, however, racial preferences have become a norm in rental advertisements with most of the rental sites listing have race preferential being Chinese and Malays.

This is a growing concern which will cause a divide among races if left unchecked. Currently, tenants are not protected by any law.

The Government has stepped to address the issue. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government (KPKT) is in the midst of drafting the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) aims to protect both owners and tenants.

The RTA is expected to be tabled in early 2021 which includes provisions that will be mechanisms to address landlord and tenant disputes.

“Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) supports the Government’s initiative to enact the RTA as it is important to state that race has nothing to do with the capability of a person to service their rental obligations,” said MIEA president Lim Boon Ping.

In fact, the Article 10 of ‘MIEA’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice’ states that all agents are “ethically and morally bound by law to treat all parties equally and not to discriminate any person for reasons of race, colour, religion, sex, handicap, family status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity”.

“Although most agents’ duty is to serve the landlord who is their client, we also have a duty of care to the tenants. As such, agents are taught and trained to reject any instruction by a client who looks for tenants based on racial preference,” Lim commented.

Meanwhile, Bukit Gasing state lawmaker Rajiv Rishyakaran said that establishing a Landlord-Tenant Tribunal will allow both landlord and renters to seek quick redress to their grouses such as unpaid rent or repairs/maintenance that are not done.

“Such a tribunal will eventually cause landlords to feel safer to rent their property to anyone without racial profiling. If they are wronged, justice will be served by the tribunal and it creates a sense of security for the landlords,” Rajiv opined.

The question here is whether the law will be able to put an end to racial discrimination in the rental market. – Dec 23, 2020

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