What Renters Wish Their Landlords Knew

The realities of renting can be ugly, and more and more of us are facing those realities long-term.

Nicole and her family had been living in her rented home in the Shoalhaven for three years when she got an eviction notice. The house had a serious mould problem that Nicole had been asking the real estate to look at for some time without success.

“This house and its mould problem was making my family sick,” Nicole told me.

“My daughter has asthma, and the mould really affected her. My son who is a toddler was getting sick every few weeks. I got really sick. All of this was connected to the mould – it’s a very serious issue.”

When Nicole followed up on the repairs for the property with a new property agent at the firm she was told they would talk to the owner. Instead six days later she got given a ‘no grounds’ eviction notice (that is, an eviction with no reason provided).

Nicole got a no-grounds eviction notice after reporting mould to the property agent. (Image: Supplied)

Sadly Nicole’s story is not an isolated one. At the Tenants Union NSW and across the network of local Tenants Advice Services we belong to, we talk to tenants every day who report being evicted in retaliation for asserting their rights –things like asking for repairs, looking to negotiate a rent increase, requesting the landlord give them notice before knocking at their door.

Serious mould infestations in rental properties because of a landlord’s failure to do repairs are unfortunately also common. Renters shared their experiences of mould and renting with The Tenants' Union for submission to this recently announced national inquiry. We received more than 100 formal responses from across the country within 48 hours.

Across social media, renters have shared their horror stories:

“Brought the mould to the attention of the Landlord and was given notice to leave without reason.”

“I got evicted for complaining about black mould the owner knew existed but refused to care for.”

“We basically handed around a cough for seven years while living in a damp terrace in Newtown. It mysteriously cleared right up or shortly after we moved out. ”

Renters are clearly frustrated at the significant power imbalance between renters and landlords and quickly see the renting horror stories pile up. In response to a report on the high costs of energy ‘deficient’ rental housing:

“The place I rent at moment is open plan and has NO insulation that I can tell. Summer it's usually over 30 degrees inside by lunchtime. I usually run aircon for a few hrs to take edge off then open windows when it starts to cool outside. Dreading the post winter bill. And it’s not a cheap place.”

Renting affordability was a real concern for renters of all ages.

“I will be one of those older renters, and honestly with the state of rents at the moment, I will probably be homeless in 20 years. I will not be eligible for the pension and will have to rent for the rest of my life. It's an awful prospect the way our economy is going. ”

In NSW almost a third of all households rent their homes. Those of us renting are doing so for longer and often with kids. A third of all those in the private rental market are classified as ‘long-term renters’ – that is, we’ve been renting continuously for 10 years or more. A growing number of us recognise we’ll likely be renting for life.

Many renters probably identify with this last commenter more than we’d like to admit. Certainly given the current state of play for renters it is hard not to feel a little dispirited – even a committed renter such as myself (and as renters go I’m about as committed as they come!).

Rents are rising and are quickly becoming less affordable. For those on low incomes they have long been unaffordable. We also don’t experience the same stability and comfort in our homes as homeowners. One in three renters are likely to have moved home in the last year, and more still (about 40 percent) have moved three or more times in the past five years. Last year when Choice, National Shelter and the National Association of Tenants Organisations undertook a national survey of renters they found:

  • Almost a quarter of all renters reported ongoing problems with pests, doors or windows that didn’t close properly, peeling paint and loose tiles
  • Half reported having been discriminated against
  • One in seven tenants said they held back from asking for repairs because they were afraid of a rent hike or getting evicted
  • Around one in ten said they had been evicted for ‘no reason’ at least once since renting

Don’t even get me started on pets!

Source: Twitter

So why aren’t renters ‘rising up’?

Well, actually they are. Online there are numerous fast growing communities of renters highlighting what needs to change – look at the support for this petition to allow pets in rentals on Change.org and the newly launched Better Renting community. A series of housing affordability events organised in the Western Sydney suburb of Penrith earlier this year saw hundreds on the streets and in church halls talking renting and solutions. Many thousands of renters right across the country have gotten behind the state-based Make Renting Fair campaigns in NSW and Victoria, and the national Everybody's Home calling for a better deal for renters.

Last week NSW Parliament unanimously confirmed housing as a human right and recognised their responsibility for providing safe, secure, and affordable housing. Despite this the NSW Government has failed to act for people who rent their homes. Most recently in the NSW budget there were no measures to support people renting, an omission that will hit renters on lower incomes hardest. Perhaps most significantly though they continue to delay long awaited rental reforms to NSW tenancy law, and current reports suggest they’re also continuing to avoid dealing with the significant – and easily fixed! - problem of unfair (no grounds) evictions.

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley On Renter's Rights

Perhaps people still just don’t understand the realities of renting and why things need to change. Maybe it’s time we listened to renters.

The Make Renting Fair alliance and Everybody’s Home's latest campaign asks renters to post a photo of themselves holding a sign sharing something they ‘wish their landlord knew’. Join here