Czech Helsinki Committee finds discrimination in real estate advertising
The Czech Helsinki Committee has performed a small research project into rental real estate market advertising. Of a total of 500 advertisements analyzed, researchers found 23 which were discriminatory, or almost 5 % of the total.
"We cannot infer from this that actual discrimination against potential tenants occurs only to that extent. From our own experience, we know that even when the text of an advertisement is not discriminatory, landlords can still discriminate against people on the basis of their citizenship or ethnicity. Real estate offices do not investigate potential tenants' financial standing, but reject them solely on the basis of their foreign citizenship or nationality," the ČHV report on the research says.
During March and April 2012, ČHV monitored advertisements placed by private owners offering real estate for rent (apartments, houses, and retail spaces) on the online real estate portals sreality.cz and bezrealitky.cz. During that time period, the organization reviewed 500 advertisements placed by private individuals and real estate offices. "The inspiration for the research was a case which our Counseling Center recently handled. While seeking an appropriate space in which to open up a grocery store (a so-called late-night market), a citizen was rejected by a landlord because he is of Vietnamese nationality," reads the ČHV report.
The following special requests were most frequently repeated in the advertisements for rental apartments and the Office of the Public Defender of Rights (the ombudsman) has evaluated them as examples of indirect discrimination at the very least: Childless tenants, families with only one child maximum, and young couples are described as sought after, while foreigners and Romani people are a priori rejected: "Apartment appropriate for a couple without children or pets. No RKs or foreigners." - "Owner does not want families with children." - "Ideal for a young couple without pets." - "I do not rent to foreigners or smokers." - "I will rent to a young couple from the Czech Republic or Slovakia without pets!!! FOREIGNERS OR RKs, DON'T EVEN CALL!!!"
These difficulties in accessing housing have been reviewed by the ombudsman, who has issued recommendations to municipalities on how uphold the right to equal treatment for persons applying to rent municipally-owned apartments. The ombudsman has said there is a high probability that using the number of children as a criterion could be considered indirect discrimination on the basis of ethnicity (against Romani people, who are presumed to have families with more than one child).
The advertisements also showed preferences concerning the economic activities and professions of potential tenants. In some cases employed persons were given preference, while in others the advertisement targeted students. There were two unusual recommendations that an apartment be rented by "managers".
The deposit amounts requested by these advertisements were fairly standard, with the equivalent of one or two months' rent being the usual deposit sought. Several advertisers also expressly stated that they were open to renting to families with children or foreigners.
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