How hard is it for Indians to rent a house, room in Subang Jaya when Chinese, Malays preferred

For illustration purpose. Photo by Clarissa Anne.

How hard is it for Indians to rent a house or room in Subang Jaya when Chinese, Malays are the preferred tenants? Very hard. For the past three months, I have been having difficulty finding a place to rent in Subang Jaya, Sunway, Puchong for a simple reason that many of the houses or rooms available for rent are only for Chinese or Malays.

Sometimes the landlords are Chinese, wishing to sell or rent their properties. The sale is always open to all races but rentals tend to be only for Chinese generally. Sometimes they have lived in these properties but a good number are also those who buy these properties for the original prices and sell off for large gains. Sometimes they engage Chinese reals estate agents, in order to rent out to only Chinese. Sometimes to Malays but not always.

Why Indians are not the preferred tenants? The reasons sound like some broken records that have been played over and over again over the years to the point of conviction. Now, almost the entire rental industry is convinced that Indians make bad tenants. If you need convincing, just Google and check some of the Malaysian rental sites. Real estate agents talk about how their Chinese client specify they only want to rent to their own race. This is clearly seen even in the pages of popular house rental sites. These ads are brazen and downright racist as they specify the preferred tenants as Chinese. So, what are the reasons claimed:

1.Indians cannot keep their place clean. Not clean here might mean cooking curry, letting the grass grow a bit. Not being squeaky clean with the overuse of chemical laden detergents. Maybe they like using turmeric water instead. Maybe they pray burning frankincense. Unkempt also does not mean they are dirty. They break things is another excuse. Never mind if it is just an aged pipe or toilet pump. It happens. In any household, not just Indian houses. Maybe there had been cases when it had happened once, twice or thrice but to generalise the entire Indian community as not being “clean”? “Breaking things”. Seriously.

What if Indians, especially vegetarian Hindus, put out a rental signboard that says “no cooking of pork, beef”? Will this be acceptable to all Malaysians? I have yet to see such a signboard and it is my hope that no Indian will get that silly to put up such a signboard that will hurt the Chinese or Malays.

2. Indians like to drink and fight. Again, there may have been some isolated cases, once, twice, thrice? but to describe all Indians as drunkards who like to fight? Seriously? And judge them when they are looking for a place to rent close to their working place? Families of other races don’t fight?

3. Indians don’t pay rent on time. Again, to categorise the entire community as not paying their rent due to few rogues? These fears are understandable, but you do have safety nets to ensure that you are dealing with a prompt payer. The fact is not only Indians but there are people of other races who have defaulted on their rental payments. So why make it a racial issue?

Meanwhile, many business people rent an entire house, fill them up with their foreign workers to the brim and they also don’t mind paying higher rental amount as the cost for one person could only amount to RM100 if they have 20 people living in a house rented for RM2,000. While it cuts costs for businesses, this behaviour has resulted not only in an unfair market advantage for house owners. Malaysians meanwhile have to pay very high price for homes that should not cost that much in many parts of the Klang Valley.

With more foreigners coming in to work, will this further aggravate the housing situation? The poor are taken care under various schemes, but what about the urban poor? Which is the body they can go to and raise the issue of housing? The Ministry of Local Government Development? Do they have a housing plan that looks at the urban poor – defined as the ones who are not poor but end up poor every month after paying off the bills associated with living in the city.

I don’t expect any overnight positive development from this letter. Year of prejudice cannot be disappear overnight. It will be too much to ask, but this added burden situation of racism on the rental grounds for Indians must be highlighted. This has been going on for far too long, with so many stories raised in the social media, but nothing has changed.

Those who allege that they are facing racism must realise their own racist behaviour and prejudices that they have been feeding well over the years. Please change. You may never understand the desperation of people not owning a house or searching one for rental that has no conditions like Chinese preferred, because you may have never been in such situations. But you must understand that a change in attitude is very possible.

It is the Indians the government should be giving special quota and special discounts in new housing projects so that they have a better chance of buying houses and will not suffer the indignity of being told that they not the preferred tenants. Perhaps, the government can even do better by looking into the housing woes faced by the community and come up with more solutions such as offering not only the B40 group but others as well the opportunity to rent houses in completed public housing projects.

Tamil Selvi