Czech Republic: Yet another audio recording documents real estate agent discrimination against Roma
Shortly afer Romea.cz published a recent report about an audio recording capturing an example of a practice engaged in by landlords in the Czech Republic who, in violation of the law, a priori refuse to lease their apartment units to prospective tenants because they are of Romani origin, our editors received another audio recording of such an interaction. This new recording is of a telephone coversation between Miroslav Brož, a social worker, and an unnamed employee (probably a secretary) of a real estate company in Teplice.
The essence of the phone call is that the social worker is looking for rental housing for his Romani clients. As long as he is negotiating the details of such a rental with the secretary the conversation goes smoothly.
However, once the social worker "admits on the level" that the housing would be for a Romani family, the employee of the agency begins to refuse them. "This is a respectable family, the gentleman is employed and the lady is pregnant," the social worker attempts to argue, but he learns that the secretary has been given "instructions" that the apartment unit in question is not to be leased to Romani tenants.
The social worker then attempts to ascertain whether the agency might have other units that Romani families could apply for. "The owner does not want to lease any of those apartments [to Roma]," the agency employee explains to him, apologizing and saying that she "can't do anything about it."
The Antidiscrimination Act is the legislation that covers situations in which a prospective tenant of a certain ethnicity is a priori excluded from the opportunity to apply for rental housing, and the relevant passage of that law establishes that "if the owner of a property offered to the public [Section 1 paragraph 1 letter j] communicates through an agent (a real estate broker) that the owner does not want to conclude a contract with a person of a certain ethnicity, that is discrimination by means of instruction (Section 4 paragraph 5)." Specific disputes under this law are then addressed by suing in civil court, but for many impoverished victims of discrimination in access to housing it is frequently difficult if not outright impossible to arrange for the costly legal aid necessary to filing a lawsuit.
Many of these people rely on the limited degree of assistance that nonprofit organizations are able to provide them. The following is a full translation of the transcript of the conversation between social worker Miroslav Brož and the employee of the real estate agent in Teplice:
MB: I am a social worker, this apartment is not for me, but for a family whom I am aiding, and so I am asking whether you might have something else for them. I'd like to openly tell you that this is a Romani family - will that bother the landlords?
Agency: Yeah, the owner doesn't want that...
MB: On Masaryk Street...
Agency: Well, anywhere. He does not want Romani people and that sort of thing in particular, he does not want to lease anything in those circumstances.
MB: This is a respectable family, the gentleman works... the lady is pregnant, ok? I just don't know. Do you have an apartment available that could be leased to a Romani family seeking housing?
Agency: Here's what I can say: My colleague will be here next week, so if you want to reach an agreement with her, you should call next week. However, we have instructions, and she specifically said that as far as Romani people go, the answer is "No" in their case. I would like to ask you to call next week... and she will either confirm that to you or not.
MB: Ok. Fine, fine. Is there any another apartment that would be available through you?
Agency: Well, as far as that goes... we have these instructions, and the owner does not want to lease any of those apartments [to Roma], I can't do anything about it.
MB: Aha, aha. Well, fine, I... don't know whether I should thank you for this information or not. Goodbye.
Agency: I'd like to assist you, but unfortunately I cannot do anything about this, ok? These are not my apartments, and those are the instructions I have been given, ok?
MB: Fine, goodbye.
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