Rental crisis: employer's shock at real estate agent's questions

Rental crisis: employer’s shock at real estate agent’s questions

Support has piled on for an employer who called out real estate agents who asked “invasive” questions about one of his employees, prompting other Aussies to share their own horror stories and distrust for the industry.

Taking to Twitter, Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Luke Hilakari shared his dismay at being asked questions about his employee that he said had no relevance to applying for a rental property.

“I was a reference for an employee & the agent asked q’s like: Total salary, do they come to work on time, are they hard working,” he shared.

“These q’s are none of the agents business & no boss should have the power to spike where u live.”

Now, others on Twitter are sharing their own experiences, and backing up Mr Hilakari’s stance.

“Has he had many girlfriends? Would you trust him with your kids? Does he like to go out late?” response one. “True questions recently asked to my reference when applying for a rental. Get in the bin.”

“I’ve done one of these too, but even worse,” replied another employer. “It’s stupid. Even if the employee is seconds away from being fired, there is no incentive and a lot of risk for a manager to write anything remotely meaningful. I cannot discuss an employee’s performance with a real estate agent.”

Another was quick to speculate it was likely the real estate agent had taken it upon themselves to ask the questions, and questioned if landlords even knew this was happening: “This is total power tripping and I bet the landlord has no idea it’s even happening and isn’t given that info.”

“That’s 100% correct. Real estate agents think that they are a law unto themselves. They are the root of the housing crisis, as well as developers riding roughshod over homebuyers and governments,” agreed another.

Although most were firmly against the apparently not uncommon line of questioning, not everyone supported renters, with one Twitter user replying that these were fair questions to ask.

“Of course they’re relevant questions. If they don’t make enough money then they may not be able to afford the rent. If they don’t come to work on time then they might not pay their rent on time. If they are not hard working then they may not look after the rental property,” they said.

“Sorry to burst the bubble but these kind of things add up to someone who is probably responsible and would probably reliably pay their rent on time,” said another.

While some argued that seeking to find out what type of person an agent might be allowing to rent a property is fair, others pointed out that those looking to buy weren’t held to the same standard.

“I recently got a mortgage and they didn’t call my employer,” a Twitter user commented. “Pay slips/bank statements were enough. Renters are being scrutinised to a greater degree for a much shorter term/less beneficial to them financial commitment.”

We all know that the process of applying for an overpriced rent is competitive, invasive and absolutely stacked in the landlord’s favor — just look at the reaction one potential tenant got when he asked for something as simple as a reference for the landlord.

Now, Mr. Hilakari says changes to the Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act are needed to regulate the types of questions real estates can ask.

Speaking to news.com.au, Mr Hilakari further explained that he was concerned with invasive questions like this were not only getting worse, but unfairly gave an employer too much power of their employees’ life.

“We’ve received reference checks for rentals before for and the questions being asked are getting much more invasive,” he said.

“As the rental market has tightened, it seems real estate agents think they have the unfettered right to ask whatever they want.

“Employers are put in the terrible situation of either having to give personal information or risk their employee missing out on a house to live in.

“I’ve had both employers and renters reach out and say they have universally had a gut full. Renters feel completely put over a barrel and feel they have no choice but to share their personal data.

“The system has to change.”

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