The biggest problem for me is the instability, feeling unable to make the property your own, your home.
Lauren has been renting in Sydney over 15 years, almost all her adult life. Like many renters in NSW she has experienced an unfair eviction. We talked to her about what it’s like to be a renter in Sydney and the impact the eviction had for her and her family.
Can you tell us about your experience as a renter?
"It’s been awful to be blunt. Everywhere I’ve lived there have been problems. I think the biggest problem for me is the instability – feeling unable to make the property your own, your home.
"You can’t have pets. The current place I’m in is the first place in many, many years where I am allowed to have pets. You can’t install furniture properly – even something like fixing brackets to the walls to stop furniture falling on your kids is something you have to ask permission for. And if something needs to be fixed you are at the mercy of your landlord. If the landlord is good then you are okay, but if not...
"You can be kicked out at any time so you feel like you’ve got to ‘put up or shut up’ with any conditions."
And you’ve experienced an unfair eviction. Can you tell us about that?
"It was a few years ago. At the time I was living with my husband and young son. My husband was between jobs, I was six months pregnant and we got the eviction notice. It was a ‘no grounds’ notice, so no reason given.
"We’d had a really good relationship with the real estate agent but had some problems with the landlord since early on in the tenancy. The place we moved into had a converted granny flat out the back. Many times we had found our landlord in our backyard – he’d be trimming a tree in the garden or moving stuff around the granny flat.
"After these unannounced ‘visits’ he would often complain through the real estate agent that we weren’t weeding or mowing the lawn regularly enough. Just before we got the eviction notice he started to complain about a tree in the backyard. He told us we needed to cut the tree. It was a big job; not something we could do ourselves, and I was pregnant at the time! I looked into it and the cost for an arborist was significant. The real estate agent came out and viewed the tree and told us that it was clearly the owner’s responsibility and not to worry about it; they would talk to the owner.
"It was not long after the tree incident that we got the eviction notice in the mail.
"The real estate agent told us ‘You are good tenants, we would re-lease to you if we could’. We were good tenants - we always paid our rent on time. We looked after the property.
"When we vacated the agent told us that the reason the owner had given them was that his family was moving in. But we moved into another house in the area and only a month or two later there was a ‘for lease’ sign through another agency in the property’s front yard."
What was the impact of the eviction for you?
"I was an absolute mess. I think the stress of the eviction and moving contributed to me going into premature labour. I was then on bed rest for the next six weeks because I nearly had the baby early. It was excruciating.
"It was also very difficult for us to find a place at the time because my husband was between jobs. His company had been downsized, and he needed to wait a few months before another company was able to take him on. People didn’t want to rent to us.
"Eventually we were able to find something locally, but it was hard. We got a half house. It was tiny with no yard to speak of. It wasn’t really a proper house at all; more like a house put together from scraps found by the owner. It wasn’t in good condition at all but it was all we could afford at the time. It was what we could get, and we had to go with whoever was willing to take us.
"I’ve had to move a few times since then. This is actually my third house in this suburb. My kids and I have had to move 3 times in the last 8 years.
"As a renter I feel like you get treated like a second-class citizen. But that’s renting in Sydney I guess.