The problem with the renting system is the power imbalance between landlords and tenants, and this can only be solved by taking steps to decouple people's homes from other people's investments. We are sacrificing people's dignity in the name of returns.
Dylan moved to Sydney for work almost 6 years ago and has lived in the same Annandale rental apartment since. Despite the disrepair of the property, he’s come to see the place as his home. Now, as he sees the growing impacts of the rental crisis on his community, Dylan is increasingly concerned about the risk of a no grounds eviction or an unaffordable rent increase, which would leave him with few options.
I did get a rent increase right at the start of this cost of living crisis, and I wonder what went on there. From how the property has been managed over the years, I suspect the landlord probably inherited this property, and is just collecting the profits without really paying much attention to it. I think the agent probably suggested the landlord increase the rent because others were doing it, and the landlord just said yes.
At $460/ week it’s on the cheaper side by now, but it was still crushing me before my roommate moved in, it was about 60% of my income, it took some time to learn how to keep my head afloat.
Dylan’s home is a very old apartment, with 1930s construction – and a lot of the features like the carpet, kitchen and windows seem to be very old. Earlier in Dylan’s time at the property, he would raise significant repairs and maintenance issues with the agent and at routine inspections – though they were often not carried out. Now, though, Dylan has stopped making any repair or maintenance request out of fear that he will be evicted in retaliation and be unable to find a new home.
Everything is so old that it’s not even really functional. The oven doesn't ignite itself anymore, so I have to reach in and light it by hand. That was a little scary at first, but I've got used to it. I have two out of six functioning windows in the flat, they’re old counterweight types that have long since lost the connecting rope, so they need to be propped open. The carpet might very well be the original, and most likely is the source of the mould issues the flat has.
With the 1930s construction it’s not insulated at all, it’s not weather-sealed. I’m from Canberra and I don’t do well with the heat. My first few summers in Sydney I was looking up desert-survival strategies: I had wet towels over my head, I was cranking fans – I have 4 portable fans in my house. It doesn’t help that the windows don’t work. And, once the sun hits the brick walls of the building in summer afternoons it’s basically a kiln.
The mould is a big issue, especially because there’s no ventilation and only old brick vents on top of the building. Many times when I’ve raised it and shown photos of the mould growing I’ve been told to “just open windows” – when it’s wetter outside than inside! Last year I noticed a mould spot growing in the corner of the kitchen, and now it’s grown into a big black wave.
It’s just not a place that’s built for safety.
Despite all its flaws, Dylan sees this apartment as his home, and he does not want to be forced to leave.
I do really like my rental, it is a home. This is the first place I moved to when I moved out and to a new city, and now I’ve been here nearly 6 years. This is my only home now, not Canberra, and I worry about moving out sometimes because it will be like starting all over again.
I’ve stopped asking for things to be repaired because I know if I do that I might get a no grounds eviction or have my rent put up heaps. If that happens, I won’t really have any options other than to leave Sydney, go back to Canberra and live with my folks.
The problem with the renting system as it currently stands is the power imbalance between landlords and tenants, and this can only be solved by taking the steps to decouple people's homes from other people's investments.
Landlords right now can control someones finances, through unfair rent hikes, their security through no grounds evictions, and their companionship by being the final say on pets. We need rent caps now. We need a total ban on no cause evictions now. We need an end to pet bans now.
A home is not an investment, it is a human right, and we are sacrificing people's dignity in the name of returns.