A rental agent has refused to arrange a house viewing for a heavily pregnant woman and her partner because the landlord did not want children living there.

Hannah, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, emailed a rental agent about a Lower Hutt house advertised on Trade Me, explaining that she and her partner were expecting a baby next month and asking to organise a viewing.

The response she got back from rental agent Janine Tweedale shocked the 26-year-old.

"Sorry but the owner does not want children at the property," Tweedale replied in an email.

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"I honestly don't know how the landlords think a newborn will damage their property," Hannah told the Herald. "I'd understand if it was 7 or something but it's just going to be a newborn."

Tweedale said the owner lived in a house above the two-bedroom, self-contained unit that was advertised and it was her preference the tenant be a professional person or couple rather than a family because she did not want children living there.

"I didn't want to waste her time arranging a viewing and then tell her the owner's preference is that they do not want children at the property. I just don't believe in wasting tenants' time, taking them to an appointment, getting them to fill in an application and then for them to be turned down. If you tell them the owner's preference from the outset, no one has wasted their time."

Tweedale said she was aware you could not discriminate but at the end of the day the owner's instructions were that she wanted a professional couple.

"If [Hannah] wants me to go ahead and show her the property and have a viewing and submit an application I can go through all those motions for her . . . and present it to the owner for her to make the decision."

A Human Rights Commission spokesperson said the Human Rights Act deemed it unlawful to discriminate based on "family status" which included caring for children.

However, another section of the act stated the prohibited ground of discrimination did not apply in regard to residential accommodation which was to be "shared with the person disposing of the accommodation".

The commission was yesterday not able to clarify whether the exception applied in this case or not.

Andrew King, the executive officer of the New Zealand Property Investors Federation, said it was not an issue he had heard of in the past.

In the past landlords had often preferred families because they were more stable tenants but since the Osaki case, where the Court of Appeal ruled last year that a tenant did not have to pay for damage after leaving a pot of oil on the stove and causing a fire, landlords were more wary of potential damage to their property.

King believed the Osaki case was likely to lead to more instances like this one.

His advice to landlords was to never "judge a book by its cover" and to consider all potential tenants.