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‘It’s a racial thing:’ Rental property hunters rejected over Indian cooking

Paridhi Bakshi

"It's a racial thing:" Flat hunters rejected because of Indian cooking

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Indian immigrants say they are being denied rental properties because of cooking habits and racist landlords.

An Auckland resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims he was a victim of racism while applying for a rental property.

“I struggled to find a house for six months; when I applied for a house, I found rejection, and when I checked who got the house, it was always some white family.”

Pooja Sharma, a New Zealander who emigrated from India, is a single mother of an 8-year-old and has been through the struggle of finding a rental property.

Sharma, who lives in Auckland, says a landlord told her: “We are really worried that our house will stink because of the food Indians cook”.

“It was a racial thing,’’ Sharma says.

“I am a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), and after getting a good job, people treat me like s**t because I am Indian.

“After that incident, I would use my white friends as my references on the property,” Sharma said.

Some Indians sleep on the floor due to back issues. Landlords interpret this as a sign that the tenants might not be able to pay their rent. Photo / Getty

Rishabh Kapoor, CEO of Impression Real Estate, acknowledges that Indian cooking can be an issue, for Indian landlords.

“We had strict guidelines from our Indian landlords, they don’t want Indian people using their apartments.

“The problem with the cooking is that sometimes they use spices that spark fire alarms.”

Kapoor says some Indians also live minimalist lives, don’t own a bed, and sleep on the floor due to back issues.

Some landlords interpret this as a sign that the tenants might not be able to pay their rent.

Tenants were rejected for many reasons.

“It’s not just racism, it’s bad history, bad examples, and bad experiences of the landlords.

“In some circumstances, the landlords have suffered a lot because of Indian people.”

Kapoor says landlords are fussy.

“There is an extreme imbalance created between the landlords and the tenants because of the government policies,” Kapoor said.

Kapoor says the government’s policies are such that if a tenant damages the property, the landlord is left hopeless unless they have insurance.

Human Rights Commission spokesperson Koro Vaka’uta said complaints about racist landlords were not uncommon.

“We have been approached in the past by people who believe they have been discriminated against on the basis of nationality and/or ethnicity.

“We are aware of past reports of the concerning way landlords have sought to address what is often termed ‘aromatic cooking’ or ‘strong odors.”

Vaka’uta added that anyone who believes they have been discriminated against in accessing housing can complain to the Human Rights Commission or to the Tenancy Tribunal.

“There are certainly rights and responsibilities for all parties involved in a tenancy agreement, but there is a line that should not be crossed when it comes to ethnic discrimination.”

Hero image: Indian landlords do not want Indian cooking in their rental properties. Photo / Getty Photo / Getty Images

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