A rental app that claims it can curb racism

Speedhome CEO Wong Whei Meng says meetings between landlords and tenants can eliminate biases.

PETALING JAYA: You’ve probably come across house-to-let advertisements that specify the race or nationality of prospective tenants.

A survey carried out in Malaysia last January by YouGov Omnibus found that 62% of the respondents had encountered ads with specific racial requirements when looking for a place to rent.

Indeed, a quick search on the internet pulls up thousands of posts by Malaysian landlords who say they would accept only people of certain races.

Wong Whei Meng, the CEO of property rental platform Speedhome, said he had found in his own survey that about 70% of landlords would not accept foreigners as tenants unless applicants were properly vetted.

Despite this, he doesn’t think that Malaysians are inherently racist. “It’s mostly a case of one bad apple spoiling the bunch,” he said.

He claims that Speedhome can play a part in tackling the issue using the three-prong approach of direct communication, filtration and the provision of insurance coverage.

The Speedhome app helps landlords connect directly with prospective tenants.

Wong told FMT meetings between landlords and tenants could eliminate biases.

“This is unlike the market practice where tenants go through property agents. Such a method blocks communication and prevents deeper understanding between landlords and tenants.”

Speedhome’s filtration system includes a check on the financial backgrounds of prospective tenants.

Wong said this enabled landlords to rid themselves of worries about having to deal with late payments.

“It also helps us to remove tenants with bad financial histories, thereby improving the quality of our tenants.”

Speedhome provides insurance coverage of up to RM42,000.

“Protection is the main concern for most landlords,” Wong said. “The sum we offer is more than sufficient to cover major damages. This is where our insurance trumps a traditional deposit.”

One way to fight biases, he said, was to ensure the protection of landlords from beginning to end.

“When there is a safety net, landlords will see tenants as individuals instead of judging them by their skin colour.”