Rental Horror Stories To Be Stopped By New Tenant Laws
Our toilet would break down once or twice a month. We'd call the landlord, who'd come over with his son and try and fix it himself. It never worked. Once, it broke down for a whole two months. We had to use the McDonald's down the road. The landlord wouldn't even call a plumber for two weeks -- when he finally did, he balked at the fee the plumber was charging and wouldn't pay him the money to fix the toilet properly.
At least the plumber left us with this squat-a-potty thing, which was like an Esky that you pooed in. The toilet never did get fixed. When we complained, the landlord came around and gave us a hundred bucks in cash. Split between four people.
We lived in a four-bedroom weatherboard shack. When the storms hit, an exterior wall came down and was replaced with a tarp for the remainder of the lease. That house was the coldest I've ever been in my life. The tarp was there for at least four months.
When we had major plumbing issues, rather than fix the toilet, the landlord dropped off a portaloo. This was to be used for a period of weeks, not days. The portaloo was there for three weeks, maybe more.
I lived in a beautiful terrace house with an INTENSE slug infestation. If you went to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you’d have to turn on the lights to avoid stepping on them. It was like a scene from a horror movie. Each morning there were slimy trails over everything.
The house was so nice otherwise! It just became a slug dungeon at night- there were even slugs in the shower. To this day I’m triggered whenever I see one. And of course the real estate did nothing about it.
I lived in one place where there was a cockroach infestation and live termites were eating the wood in the hallway. You could HEAR them munching. I paid nearly $700 a week for that dump, and my numerous emails to address the issues were ignored.
Another time, we moved to a converted garage on an acreage and the lady there wouldn't do a lease. She wanted everything in cash so she could claim the same rate of pension. And that place was even worse. Mice, cockroaches... I couldn't use the cupboards after a while because the creatures would get into my linen and the food cupboards. She wouldn't let me use her wifi (even though the garage didn't have its own electricity supply and I couldn't get my own account, and I was happy to pay extra for that). The damn electricity kept shorting out and I spent a lot of money on top of the rent replacing food and our stuff.
Two bad places, an apartment in Crows Nest and a terrace in Newtown. Both had black mould, zero maintenance and repairs, non-functioning ovens, broken light fittings, peeling paint. There was zero response from the real estate except to inform us of rental increases or that we have an inspection coming up.
The place in Crows Nest, there were issues we had that were never resolved. The front door handle fell apart, trapping us in the apartment. We eventually were able to pry it open and tape the tang out of the way to stop the door being stuck shut with gaffer tape. We reported to the real estate then followed a few times with phone calls to get it fixed. We got responses that they would get a locksmith "ASAP". A locksmith never showed up in the subsequent 14 months we continued to live there.
In an adjacent apartment their bath had a leak which was letting water fall in between the brickwork and leading to black mould coming up our living room wall. Same cycle of emailing and calling, nothing was ever done about it. Also our oven door hinge failed shortly after we moved in. It meant we couldn't use the oven as the door wouldn't seal.
We moved into a ground floor, street facing apartment. When we first got there, we found the agent had given us the wrong keys so we couldn’t open the door. When we called him, he said “I can’t be there for a few hours, but the front window lock is broken so you can just slide it open and unlock the front door.”
The window wasn’t fixed for another two weeks so we had to break a plastic coat hanger and wedge it in the windowsill to prevent the window from being opened.
It was fixed eventually, but after much protest. They didn’t seem to think it was a big deal
Byron, Lane Cove
My partner and I had not lived in this share house for long. It was a Saturday morning and we'd been to the supermarket. We came home and the landlord was in our bedroom. I immediately said 'what do you think you're doing?'
She started getting up me for hanging up a towel in the room -- it was because there weren't enough racks in the bathroom and it was raining outside. She said "tenants like you ruin properties by causing mould."
I said "landlords like you get taken to the tribunal for infringing on the rights of your tenants."
She started saying something along the lines of "I think I understand the law a bit better than you" and I said "and yet, here we are, with you trespassing in my room."
I had my bedroom repeatedly flooded, at least five times over a year, with inch-deep water coming in for hours and no way to stop it, because the landlord refused to fix some pumps.
Same landlord also left a metre-wide hole in the ceiling with rainwater pouring in. The same landlord took about five years to finally fix a drip over someone’s bed that turned out to be raw sewage from the toilet in the apartment above
My current rental property has a mouldy roof, mysteriously leaking walls, a stove with only two working burners, a smashed and rusted bathroom mirror, rusty water, and a new cockroach infestation every three months despite frequent exterminator visits.
The communal washer from the 1970s only runs on cold water, and costs $2 for 20 minutes.
I lived next door to a warehouse. The roof of that place was asbestos and the stuff was littered all through the neighbourhood so we had to move out while the clean up took place. About a month later, the real estate calls me and says council has given us the all clear to move back in. We move back in on a Saturday and literally on the Monday council issues an emergency order requiring my landlord to prove that the house is safe to occupy.
He sat on that order for a week until I checked the letterbox the following Monday and found a copy of it dated the previous Monday. I called the real estate and asked what is going on, and she was like "I don't know, I’ve been on holidays." At 5pm, she calls me back and says "we’re giving you a seven-day eviction notice because the place is uninhabitable due to ongoing asbestos contamination."
We're still fuming that we were allowed to live in a place potentially contaminated with asbestos for a week!
I came back to the place I was renting on a Friday evening to discover:
A) It was for sale. B) There was an open house the next day.
Marc, Oyster Bay
I lived in a house in Oyster Bay where the owner -- who lived in the rear battle axe -- bred rats in my roof which they sold to snake enthusiasts.
It was unbelievable that the landlord actually admitted to it. I did ask them how they got into my ceiling to get the rats -- "our spare key," was their response
My landlord lives next door to my house and goes through my mail and my bins, complains when I don’t take my bins out every Monday, and tells the agent I’m harbouring four dogs in the house (I’m not).
These are just some of the rental property horror stories shared by NSW tenants, and the type of problems that new state laws are trying to stamp out.
The NSW government recently proposed updates to the state's rental laws, with the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018 introduced into parliament. Under the plan, tenants would be allowed to make small changes to properties such as nailing picture hooks into walls, while landlords would be compelled to keep properties at a minimum standard with new benchmarks around electricity, water and other utilities.
Rent would only be able to be increased once per year, and people experiencing domestic violence would no longer be able to be penalised for breaking a lease if they have to flee a property.
“Under these common-sense changes, renting families will be able to make minor alternations, such as installing a picture hook to hang their family photos, and will benefit from a new set of minimum standards to ensure properties are in a liveable condition,” said NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Matt Kean.
Around one-third of NSW residents rent a property. The changes come on the heels of Victoria introducing similar reforms in August, and form the next step in moves nationwide to give tenants more rights and security.
While the changes have been welcomed by tenants groups, the proposals do not address the fact that no-cause evictions are still legal in NSW in some circumstances.
"The ability to put a hook up in your home without having to check with the landlord every time would be a big improvement. It gives you more ownership of your home, more recognition a rented home is a home and a place we value and should be able to personalise," Leo Patterson Ross, of the NSW Tenants' Union, told ten daily in August.
"The signal sent out from government now is they don't see tenants as being responsible or adult enough to make these decisions or take responsibility if it goes wrong... Moving away from this paternalistic way of renting is positive."
The changes are well overdue, dozens of NSW renters told ten daily. We spoke to many people who shared their horror stories while renting, with issues stretching back to the 1980s and up to the present day.
Mouldy properties making people sick, dirty water and faulty electricity service, vermin and pests breeding in homes, and landlords refusing to make urgent repairs were the most common issues people reported. Scroll through our gallery above to check out some of the wildest stories.