Rental crisis: shock of employers faced with questions from real estate agents

Support has been building for an employer who called out estate agents who asked ‘invasive’ questions about one of its employees, prompting other Australians to share their own horror stories and distrust of the industry.

Taking to Twitter, Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Luke Hilakari expressed his dismay at questions being asked about his employee which he said had nothing to do with applying for a rental property.

“I was a referral for an employee and the agent asked questions like: total salary, do they come to work on time, do they work hard,” he shared.

“These q’s are not an agent’s business and no boss should have the power to bump up where you live.”

Now others on Twitter are sharing their own experiences and supporting Mr. Hilakari’s position.

“Has he had many girlfriends? Would you trust him with your children? Does he like to go out late? one replied. “Real questions recently posed to my reference during a rental enquiry. Put yourself in the trash.

“I did one too, only worse,” replied another employer. “That’s stupid. Even if the employee is seconds away from being fired, there’s no incentive and a lot of risk for a manager to write anything remotely meaningful. I can’t argue of an employee’s performance with a real estate agent.

Another was quick to speculate it was likely the estate agent had taken it upon himself to ask the questions and wondered if the landlords even knew it was happening: don’t get that information.

“That’s 100% correct. Realtors think they are a law in their own right. They are the root of the housing crisis, along with developers who trample on home buyers and governments,” another agreed.

Although most were strongly opposed to the seemingly common line of questions, not everyone was supportive of the tenants, with one Twitter user responding that they were fair questions to ask.

“Of course, these are valid questions. If they don’t make enough money, they may not be able to pay the rent. If they don’t come to work on time, they risk not paying their rent on time. If they don’t work hard, they may not look after the rental property,” they said.

“Sorry to burst the bubble, but this stuff adds up to someone who is probably responsible and would probably reliably pay their rent on time,” another said.

While some argued it was fair to look at what type of person an agent might allow to rent a property, others pointed out that those looking to buy were not held to the same standard.

“I recently got a mortgage and they haven’t called my employer,” one Twitter user commented. “The payslips/bank statements were enough. Tenants are scrutinized more closely for a much shorter/less beneficial financial commitment to them.

We all know that the process of asking for an overpriced rental is competitive, invasive and absolutely in favor of the landlord – just look at the reaction of a potential tenant when they asked for something as simple as a reference for the owner.

Now, Mr Hilakari says changes to Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act are needed to regulate the types of issues real estate can raise.

Speaking to, Mr Hilakari further explained that he fears invasive issues like this could escalate but unfairly give an employer too much power over the lives of their employees. .

“We have already received reference checks for rentals and the questions being asked are getting much more intrusive,” he said.

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

“Employers are put in the terrible position of having to provide personal information or risk their employee missing a home to live in.

“I’ve had employers and tenants reach out to me and say they universally have full bellies. Tenants feel completely over a barrel and feel they have no choice but to share their personal data.

“The system must change.

About Wanda G. Warren

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