Photo: Shimrit Shulman
Attorney Yaron Tikotzky
Photo: Shimrit Shulman
Property owners to be penalized for discrimination
New Knesset bill aims to lessen real estate-related partiality; disallowing discrimination in intermixed cities will advance co-existence
A bill that recently landed at the Knesset door, recommends penalizing real estate owners who discriminate against potential buyers.


The types of discrimination discussed are based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, political views, personal status, handicaps and parenthood.


The bill will mainly influence real estate market deals in intermixed cities like Jaffa, Jerusalem, Haifa and Akko.


It is likely that the new bill will not do away with the discrimination it is attempting to fight – however, it is definitely likely to enhance the awareness of this faulty phenomenon and make it less prevalent.


According to commentaries, the bill has appeared at the backdrop of increased racism in Israel. It is also based on declarations made by property owners who are unwilling to rent or sell their property to buyers or renters of a certain nationality, skin color, disability and the like.


This does not coincide with the fact that principles of equality and prohibition of discrimination are basic values in Israeli society.


Currently, people who feel that they are being discriminated against for the aforementioned reasons, file lawsuits with the assistance of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.


In this way for instance, an Akko resident who is also an Arab social activist, wanted to purchase an apartment in an exclusive housing project in his city and was refused solely for being an Arab, he claimed.


According to the Akko man, when he gave his name to the representative – who automatically understood that he was Arab, he answered that he will be put on the waiting list.


He was later told that none of the apartments he took an interest in remained and that there were only bigger and more expensive apartments.


His lawyers took the initiative and sent a number of investigators to that sales office in order to check the possibility of purchasing the type of apartment the claimant desired.


The investigators were told that these types of apartments are available and when asked if they sell apartments to Arabs, the representative answered an explicit, no.


When Arab investigators arrived at the sales office, the representatives of the same real estate agency closed the offices for various reasons.


Religious neighborhood, hi-tech tower 

In the same breath, it must be noted that there is a widespread practice in which real estate projects are intended for people from specific sectors, professions and characteristics.


For instance, in a petition filed at the Supreme Court, the court was asked to nullify the tender won by the Bemuna real estate agency at the "Etrog Market" site in Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood – since the agency intended on selling apartments solely to the national religious public.


Another example is a suit filed at the District Court against the participation of discriminating purchasing groups at the Tel Aviv wholesale market site.


The suit was based on publications regarding the formation of a purchasing group that declared that it was the intention of its members to allot apartments at low prices solely to hi-tech and capital market workers.


This bill broadens the issue of disability discrimination. It recommends disallowing property owners to prevent people with handicaps to make their apartments suitable for their needs. This of course, pertains to modifications that do not harm the intactness of the property.


If the property owner will still prevent the renter from altering the property – they will be exposed to a lawsuit based on the civil wrongs ordinance which can lead to compensations of NIS 63,000 (about $17,000) without proof of damages.


Even if the bill is approved – it is likely that discrimination will not entirely cease to exist. It will exist latently since divulging the discriminator will result in heavy penalties and negative publicity.


Prohibiting discrimination does not just stem from the fear of fines, social condemnation and similar punishments. Disallowing discrimination, especially in the intermixed cities, will advance co-existence.


The author is an expert in real estate and partner at the Doron, Tikotzky, Cederboum, Amir, Mizrahi law firm



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