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Rebosa does not tolerate racism

MAIN IMAGE: Jan le Roux, Rebosa CE; Robert Krautkramer, Director of Miltons Matsemela Attorneys

A recent, evidently racist, event involving a prospective tenant and an estate agent in Cape Town again emphasised the need to stamp out racism in the property industry.

The estate agent came under fire for her interactions in dealing with a prospective client of colour and has been suspended from her job as result of this  while the agency has terminated it’s contract with the landlord involved.

“This is exactly the type of behaviour we want to eradicate from the real estate sector. Estate agents who still discriminate against prospective clients based on their skin colour have no place in the sector. As an industry we need to stop denying racism and start dismantling it,” said Jan le Roux, CE of Rebosa.

“Racial injustice plagues society and we need to intentionally devise measures to end racism, marginalisation and the systemic discrimination of people who especially rely on us to provide their most basic need ‘shelter,’ without which it is almost impossible to continue any other kind of activity.

Rebosa advises it’s members to sign the “Rebosa Equality Pledge’ against discrimination in any form. It is not acceptable for estate agents to hide behind the prejudices and racist actions of homeowners and landlords. Agents should refuse to collaborate with sellers and landlords who refuse to look past racial divisions,” Le Roux said.

The Rebosa pledge states that the industry has a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of discrimination in the real estate industry and in society. By signing the pledge, estate agents undertook to, amongst other promises:

  • Treat everyone with dignity, fairness, and respect
  • To work towards eliminating discrimination, whether by reason of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, disability, age, or religion
  • Demonstrate respect for equality and diversity, and ensure that prejudice and discrimination do not go unchallenged
  • Uphold the principles of anti-discrimination in the real estate industry

Read the full pledge on the Rebosa website – Rebosa also encourages agents who are not members of Rebosa to sign the pledge.

Robert Krautkramer, Director of Miltons Matsemela Attorneys, said many people labour under the belief that this incident was a violation of the Code of Conduct, (para 2.3) which states an agent may not refuse to provide services to someone based on race or ethnic origin.

“This is not the issue here. The Rental Housing Act, section 4(3) says that no landlord may discriminate (unfairly) against someone based on race, ethnic origin etc. The problem was that by taking this mandate, the agent became an accomplice, she was equally guilty of breaking the law. It is that simple. The Act also defines a landlord to include the agent. Bottom line is thus simple – this agent should have declined the mandate. Full stop. She is as guilty as the landlord.”

According to Krautkramer, this raises a further question now.

“When would it not be unfair to discriminate? May one refuse to rent property to a person with a foreign passport who happens to be from a different ethnic group? Probably yes. “Why?” you ask? Try and sue a foreigner who decides to do a midnight run back to another country (regardless of which country it is). It is a nightmare and terribly expensive to sue anyone outside of SA.

“If banks are allowed to refuse full bonds to foreigners, landlords have every right to also refuse to rent property to them. The fact that they pose a much higher financial risk is reason enough. Provided that this is of course applied to any foreign prospective tenant and not only those of a certain colour or religion or racial group. In my view, this is a financial risk assessment which is commercially justifiable,” Krautkramer said.

What about Section 4(6) of the PIE Act (Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act)? This section states that court may exercise a discretion as to the timing of an eviction especially in the case of households with children; elderly people (not defined, so when are you “elderly”?); disabled persons or households, headed by women. Does this mean that a landlord may refuse to rent out property to anyone who falls within this category given the added risk of an extended “stay of eviction”? At face value it would certainly amount to discrimination to refuse them a rental contract. Would it be fair discrimination though, given that it is a known fact that the courts may in such instances give 3 months (plus), instead of just one month, to leave.

“I doubt very much that any court would agree that such discrimination would be fair. Such persons are obviously deemed to be vulnerable. To then allow landlords to refuse to rent to any family under such circumstances, means that probably half the nation of tenants would be refused a home to live!

“So, let your conscience be your guide on this one, but you are (in my view) going to be treading very, very thin ice if you think a court would back you. If it is a concern, get a larger deposit. There is no limit on the deposit one may demand. But good luck with that one too!

“In conclusion – you want to own property to rent it out? Like any business venture, the good comes with the bad,” Krautkramer reiterated.

In the meantime, the EAAB has also reacted to the incident and is investigating the allegations to determine the extent and prevalence of the alleged practice and further investigate the efficacy of the application of the code of conduct and EAA Act.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela

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