From recurring mould to unfixed gas leaks, Aussies are revealing what it's really like to rent in Australia. Around 30 per cent of Australians are in the private rental property market and it's not an easy life for most.
A damning new report coauthored by CHOICE magazine, the National Association of Tenants' Organisations and National Shelter has investigated the often neglected part of the debate surrounding housing affordability.
"We've known for some time that renters' rights have been a problem in Australia," CHOICE's head of media Tom Godfrey told the Huffington Post Australia.
"It's a pretty bleak existence out there for many renters."
CHOICE wants the national housing debate to focus on not just affordability but security around rentals. Tenants are often forced to wait lengthy periods of time for urgent repairs and have trouble securing leases for more than 12 months. Renters report facing discrimination from landlords based on their gender or sexuality, or because they have children or pets.
The stats are concerning:
- 83 percent of renters in Australia have no fixed-term lease or are on a lease less than 12 months long
- 62 percent feel they're not in a position to ask for longer term rental security
- 50 percent say they have been discriminated against
- 50 percent are concerned about being 'blacklisted' by their landlord
- 21 percent of the renters who took part in the research said they had waited over a week to get a response about an urgent request for repair
"Choice has received many more complaints since we announced the report. Some of the stories are soul-destroying," Godfrey said.
Here are just a few horror stories from renters:
#RentinOz sewer burst under house, living above shit for 4mths, landlord/agent treated us like idiots. Had to go to hassle of NCAT to leave— Tao of Richard (@richardjwaters) February 15, 2017
Renting is miserable. Our last landlord threatened to "fix" two broken air conditioners by removing them. Instead, they were left broken. https://t.co/Lyqrr0nQLx— garthk (@garthk) February 15, 2017
Forced to live with black mould for 2 years after a pipe burst. Real Estate claimed it was "only dirt" and ignored it. #RentInOz— Jamie (@izunamii) February 15, 2017
@abcnews Oven's had the gong and doesn't work on the new gas but, because I'm renting, I'm forced to wait for the owner to replace it— Belindasmilne (@belindasmilne) February 15, 2017
Getting a rental property when you have a disability isn't easy. Landlords tend to have prejudices and stigma. #RentinOz— Cecilia J. Rucker (@CJARucker) February 15, 2017
The report documents the culture of fear around the rental market. Renters are reluctant to ask for repairs or to go to higher authorities to exercise their rights because they fear consequences, like the rent being raised or their names being added to a tenant 'blacklist'.
These lists are usually third-party databases that are meant to be reserved for tenants who have fallen behind in rent by more than the value of their bond or who have violated the terms of their lease. However, there are reports of landlords using them to screen tenants who have lodge complaints or tried to exercise their rights.
"We can't think of any other product or service in the market where you need a remedy and the company would drag its heels," Godfrey told Huffpost Australia.
The good news is there is plenty of information out there on rental rights for both tenants and landlords. The department of fair trading in your state will have information about renters' rights and what to do when there is a dispute. CHOICE also has a comprehensive list of contacts for each state and territory, including tenant associations and the appropriate tribunals where you can resolve a dispute.
The report is being handed to the Federal Parliament on Thursday in a bid to get renters' rights on the national agenda.
"There is a significant power imbalance between renters and landlords," Godfrey said.
"We'd like to see a national debate on this."