A common source of aggravation for those seeking to rent in Singapore is the fact that some landlords are explicitly discriminatory along racial lines.
A woman who recently faced brazen bias while enquiring about a flat in Ang Mo Kio took to Twitter on Aug 16 to raise awareness about the issue after the property agent implied that Indians and Malays can’t keep houses clean.
This, despite the woman stating that she and her fellow renters consist of two Chinese and two Eurasian folks, all of whom are Singaporean.
The group had been interested in renting the entire four-room flat for a year — an abode that came fully-furnished and would cost $2,300 a month.
The property agent, however, first asked if they were of Chinese ethnicity as the landlord “rejects Indians and Malays”.
Offended by the outright partiality, the renter called it out as racism and changed her mind about the flat. The property agent simply responded with an OK emoji and said: “Not a racist but who can keep house clean [sic]”.
“So only Chinese can keep house clean? [sic] Okay noted,” the renter sarcastically replied.
It was later on that the renter felt a little bad that she lashed out at the property agent instead of the landlord, but that changed when the agent tried to defend herself.
“Cannot say people racist just because they have preferences,” the agent was said to have told the renter.
According to the renter, the agent then went on to say that the landlord has had negative experiences with “Indians that didn’t clean the flat and Malays who bring their friends over”.
The renter acknowledged that she could understand why the landlord would have racial preferences due to past experiences but took issue with how the agent conveyed the message.
When asked if she would be making a report, the renter said that she just told the agent off and blocked her.
“I’m only posting it to raise awareness for this unit in case there are minorities who [are] looking to rent, so they don’t need to waste their time enquiring for this,” she wrote on Twitter.
What she went through is a common enough matter that nearly one in four Singaporeans has faced discrimination based on their ethnicity when renting properties, according to a study by YouGov last year. 50 per cent of the Singaporeans involved in the survey said they came across rental advertisements with racial requirements.
Darius Cheung, the founder of property website 99.co, made an attempt to combat rental discrimination by introducing diversity-friendly listings on his portal, which will be prominently featured if agents and landlords indicate that they are impartial to ethnicity, background or nationality.