In a tight housing market, the search for a rental property can quickly turn into a nightmare, especially in large cities. And some landlords aren’t helping by adding new – and perhaps unreasonable – types of selection criteria to their lists.
Landlords already have a reputation for being a demanding bunch when it comes to tenants, but some are now developing extremely specific criteria as the basis of their selection, as indicated in a housing ad that recently appeared on the New York rental market.
It concerns two spacious apartments in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Fort Greene. The rents are US$4,500 (close to RM21,000) and US$5,700, respectively – expensive, yes, but quite typical for New York.
What stood out was that this ad specified that there was to be no cooking of meat or fish in the building. The agency in charge of these properties explained that the consumption of animal products is not strictly forbidden, only that tenants can’t cook them inside.
The reason is that the owner, a vegan, doesn’t want cooking smells to make their way into her own apartment in the same building. This condition has been in force since she bought the residence in 2007 with her ex-husband.
“It’s not about discrimination. You have to fit into the building,” one of the co-owners explained to the “New York Times”.
This ad has caused quite a stir because of its potentially discriminatory nature. Yet, is it legal for an owner to make such a request? In New York City, it would appear so – the law states that there are 14 criteria landlords are not allowed to take into account when choosing a tenant, including age, ethnicity, occupation, family status, and sexual orientation.
But diet is not one of them, which theoretically allows landlords to have a say in their tenants’ culinary habits.
In some countries, such as France, such a situation would be unthinkable. French law stipulates that it is forbidden to refuse a tenant on the basis of certain criteria considered discriminatory, including their customs or lifestyle.
The landlord is only entitled to base their decision on a candidate’s financial situation and the guarantees they offer. For example, a tenant who smokes or owns a pet – unless it’s categorised as a dangerous and/or protected species – cannot be refused outright.
Exacerbating the housing crisis
In reality, however, many landlords make demands that are unreasonable and even verging on repressive. And users on social networks are not holding back on their sarcasm.
Real-estate specialist Madalina Dragalina describes what the ideal tenant looks like in the eyes of German landlords: “She’s in a long-distance relationship, she travels a lot for work, she doesn’t know how to cook, she hates garlic, she has an electrician background and so can do repairs alone in the house. And she doesn’t smoke or have any pets,” she states on TikTok.
This phenomenon goes beyond the west: renters in Asia, too, are complaining about the demands made by some property owners, especially those in cities where the cost of living is particularly high.
“If you’ve tried to rent in Singapore – at least not the whole unit, just a room – you would find a lot of these weird rules. Like no cooking, laundry only once a week or no laundry after 12,” railed an internet user on TikTok.
“Are we not all human? We just want to live together coherently.”
These videos indicate the extent to which the housing market is under pressure in the world’s major cities: tenants are finding it increasingly difficult to find accommodation they can afford, especially when landlords are lengthening the list of selection criteria.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that the search for a home has become an increasingly widespread source of anxiety, especially among younger generations.