A forestry worker in Whangārei is offended his application to rent a cottage was refused because he's a member of the Destiny Church.
Greg Te Tomo Arani wants an apology from the landlord of a two-bedroom cottage he applied to rent via Trade Me Property about two weeks ago.
When he inquired whether the property was still available, the landlord responded on Trade Me Property: "Thank you Greg for your application however we would not let it to you as we are opposed to anything that Destiny Church represents".
The landlord did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.
Arani's family intends to lodge a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.
Arani said at first, he thanked the landlord for her "honesty" and said since it was a great cottage, she surely would get great tenants.
"When I showed what she'd written to my boss, he said it was discrimination. At the end of the day, if it had been a gay [person] or Muslims it would have become a lot bigger issue.
"I am offended by how she's judged me through my affiliation with the church. I'd like to have a sit down, have a coffee and an apology."
Arani is currently staying in a backpacker lodge in Whangārei since moving up from Hamilton and says finding rental accommodation was very difficult.
The church's pastor in Whangārei, Robbie Johnson, said it was "pretty disappointing" that people were being penalised for their religious beliefs.
"It's just discrimination. It bemuses me how judgmental people can be," he said.
New Zealand Property Investors Federation spokesman Andrew King said expressing a view in the way the landlord did was a breach of the Residential Tenancies Act.
"In this case, you don't have a right to freedom of expression. We advice our members not to give a reason why tenancy has been declined."
Trade Me was not prepared to discuss specifics for privacy reasons but said all its members have to comply with New Zealand laws, including the Human Rights Act.
Head of trust and safety, George Hiotakis, said Trade Me had a dedicated team that monitored the site constantly and removed anything in breach of its terms and conditions.
"If we see anyone breaching our terms, we will remove the listing and warn the seller. We will consider banning them if we think that's appropriate too."
The Human Rights Commission was unwilling to confirm whether a complaint had been lodged as its mediation process was confidential.
"However, in general terms, human rights law and tenancy law both make it unlawful for landlords to treat people differently on certain grounds including race, colour, ethnicity, religious belief, gender, sexual orientation, and disability," a spokeswoman said.
"In most circumstances, landlords cannot refuse to rent a property to a prospective tenant because of that person's religious beliefs, but there are some limited exceptions to the general rules."
Tenancy Services says discrimination is unlawful under the tenancy law as it breaches the Human Rights Act.
When providing accommodation, the Tenancy Services says it's unlawful to choose tenants based on gender, religious or ethical beliefs, race or colour, nationality, ethnicity, origin or citizenship, physical or mental disability or illness, age, political opinion, employment status, marital and family status – including any responsibilities for dependants, and sexual orientation.
"A landlord can't turn down a potential tenant because they go to a certain church. They also can't change an agreement after it is signed because they find out the tenant is unemployed," Tenancy Services said in a statement.
The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand said tenancy law dictated that discrimination along religious or ethical beliefs was unlawful and a breach of human rights.
"A tenant who thinks they have been discriminated against can either make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission or make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal."