Real Estate

Rental properties with cockroaches, mould, leaky taps

Written by The ReReport

Mould, cockroaches, leaky taps and dodgy wiring.

Australians have shared shocking photos of their rundown rentals as a new report reveals more than half of the 2.6 million households who rent across the country are living in a home that needs repairs.

The report, Disrupted: The Experience Of Renting In Australia, was commissioned by consumer group Choice, housing affordability peak body National Shelter and the National Association of Tenant Organisations.

Nearly half of the 1547 renters surveyed said they were scared of being evicted if they asked for a repair, while more than two-thirds believed their rent might be increased. Most simply thought the request would be ignored.

Canberra public servant Melanie owns a house but after a divorce found herself renting again at the age of 55, paying $520 a week for a house in Tuggeranong. While the property itself was nice, she says she was “bullied” by the owners constantly coming around to do “repairs” — including what she claimed was unlicensed electrical work.

“Every time the landlords come over you feel as if it’s a house inspection,” she said. “She was really quite intrusive. She could see I kept the house beautiful, I treated it as if it was my own. I’m 55 years old — having house inspections is really humiliating.”

Melanie said with a high demand for rental properties, Canberra was a landlord’s market. She eventually moved out, but was forced to take the owner to the civil tribunal when she refused to hand back her $2000 bond.

“It was a simple matter but it’s amazing she got away with this before,” she said. “And then of course I had to wait weeks for my money to come through. $2000 is probably not much for property owners but it’s a huge amount for a renter.”

Melanie said she didn’t want to be at the “mercy” of another landlord.

“I’m getting over being bullied; I really don’t want to rent again,” she said. “I’m a housesitter now — it’s fantastic. I sort of couch surf.”

The report calls for better protections for renters, describing the current system as broken. Under Australian Consumer Law, people have a right to a repair, refund or replacement if a product or service is defective.

“But the private rental market is not functioning in this way,” it says.

“Australians who rent are living in homes that are in desperate need of repairs, and unlike in any other market for consumer goods, they are unable to assert their rights to a remedy because they fear eviction or an unreasonable hike in rent.”

Renters most commonly reported their bathroom as being in need of repair, followed by the kitchen, bedroom, laundry and locks, doors and windows. One-third of all renters reported mould in their bathroom.

“Australians have stronger consumer protections when they buy something from their local supermarket than when they spend tens of thousands of dollars renting a home,” Choice director of campaigns and communications Erin Turner said in a statement.

“We’ve got families living with mould all over their homes and left waiting weeks for repairs — this simply isn’t good enough. It’s time for consistent and fair laws that guarantee every Australian has a safe, secure and affordable home.”

National Shelter executive officer Adrian Pisarski said the report showed there was a major problem with the quality of our homes.

“Property lobbyists fight reform every step of the way, but good regulation helps everyone,” he said. “Let’s support good landlords by bringing everyone up to their standard.”

Tenants Queensland chief executive Penny Carr said no-grounds evictions “effectively render our other protections useless” and should be banned across the country.

“You shouldn’t be kicked out of your home because the person who rents it to you can’t be bothered to provide basic maintenance and repairs,” she said.

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