M'sian PR told HDB flat for rent is 'Christian house', landlord disallows 'idol, statue' & incense burning

The landlord made his personal preferences and beliefs known upfront.

Ashley Tan | October 06, 2021, 07:04 PM

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Update on Oct. 7, 5pm: This article was updated to include a statement from PropertyGuru.

This is a three-bedroom HDB flat for rent at Spottiswoode Park Road.

Looks pretty spacious, airy, and with plenty of natural light.

The flat also boasts rooms with air-conditioning and some electrical appliances.

Photo from PropertyGuru

Photo from PropertyGuru

Photo from PropertyGuru

"Christian house"?

One man in Singapore, who is a Malaysian permanent resident, took an interest in this listing displayed on PropertyGuru, and shared his experience with Mothership.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, then contacted the property agent stated on the website, asking if he could view the unit.

In response, the agent listed off several things to note:

"This unit is for Singaporean n Malaysian only. Available immediate. Christian house. AGENT commissions apply."

One thing stood out though — "Christian house".

Photo from Mothership reader

Very specific requirements for tenants

After enquiring what exactly that phrase meant, the agent rattled off an elaborate set of conditions, which were apparently established by the landlord, stemming from personal preferences and beliefs.

As the landlord of the flat is "very particular" and a "staunch Christian", tenants are apparently not allowed to practice any other religion in the flat, the interested tenant was told.

According to the agent's message, tenants are not allowed to bring in other religious artefacts, such as "any idol, statue, picture, figure of any kind".

Burning of incense, joss sticks and "paper" is also not permitted.

This is accompanied by other requirements, where only Singaporean and Malaysian tenants are accepted, and any male and female pair renting the flat together must be married.

Ironically, the message was accompanied with a statement that the requirements were "without prejudice".

Aside from the requirement specifying the nationality of the tenant, the other conditions were not stated on the listing on the PropertyGuru website.

Photo from Mothership reader

Shocked at agent's reply

The man, who is not a Christian, shared that upon receiving such a reply, his "shock was immense".

He did not deign to give the agent a reply considering her "insensitive" message.

"I did not respond to her insensitive message, regardless of how it turns out, I cannot see how it will benefit me," he said.

Although he has received replies of "Chinese only" from other agents, this was the first time he has encountered this sort of establishing of rules process during his house-hunting thus far.

He shared that his aim is not to expose anyone in this case, but to raise awareness on the type of prejudices prevalent in the open market.

The man also called for PropertyGuru to filter listings that states outright certain ethnic preferences for tenants.

PropertyGuru: Indicating race or ethnic preferences or other biases prohibited

In a statement shared with Mothership, PropertyGuru said that it does not condone discrimination of any form, and "actively invest to avoid it from affecting our users".

"We strongly believe that all renters and buyers must be welcome, regardless of their race, ethnicity or any other biases," the statement read.

PropertyGuru's guidelines and terms and conditions prohibit agents from indicating race or ethnic preferences or any kind of other biases when creating a listing.

Listings are also actively moderated, and back end checks are carried out to scrutinise any discriminatory preference indications.

Listings which do not abide by guidelines are immediately suspended, and the Moderation Team will reach out to the agent to work with them to amend the listing.

In this case, the listing at Spottiswoode Park Road has been moderated.

According to the statement, PropertyGuru also proactively engages with agents in all its markets through regular training sessions, seminars and workshops.

PropertyGuru also reminds the agent community about regulations against discriminatory advertising, as set out by The Council of Estate Agencies (CEA) and best practices in property advertising.

Under PropertyGuru's Acceptable Use Policy, those who use its services agree not to:

"...upload, transmit, post or otherwise make available any content that is, or could reasonably be expected to be, offensive, discriminatory, defamatory, obscene, threatening, abusive, indecent or otherwise unlawful, including content that is likely to offend, insult or humiliate others based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation or any physical or mental disability."

This is similarly stated in their Terms of Use.

Guidelines for real estate agents

The Article 12(2) of the Singapore Constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of religion for Singapore citizens.

According to practice guidelines by the CEA for real estate agents, under the Estate Agents Act, the only guideline which mentions religious discrimination is one that address discriminatory advertising.

"In advertising properties for sale, purchase or rental, salespersons should be sensitive to the diverse, multi-racial and multi-cultural nature of society and advise their clients against placing advertisements that are discriminatory, offensive or stereotyped in nature against any particular race, religion or group in society."

However, while agents are not allowed to advertise the preference for a particular religion, the problem could be pushed downstream, when the agent imposes the landlord's preference when someone looks to rent the property.

Also, home owners who don't use licensed agents are not subject to CEA guidelines.

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Top photo from PropertyGuru and Mothership reader