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Kirby's story


I spent most of the day crying. I felt confused because I wasn't given a reason for needing to move out. In the end, I found that it was so they could raise the rent by $80 a week. I’ve calculated that in the 12 months I lived in that apartment I paid $24,440 off the owner's mortgage.

Brown and white cat sitting on a windowsill peers nervously around the edge of some curtains, looking into the camera.
This is Coffee, Kirby's beautiful yet very anxious cat.
This photo is entitled 'Coffee Watches Anxiously', and was the winning entry to the 'Pets' category of the
Through a Renter's Lens photography competition, captured by photographer Dylan Young.


Kirby has been renting in Sydney since the end of 2021. At that time the rental property demand was lower than usual due to COVID-19, so Kirby was able to live alone for the first time. This also meant she was able to bring her anxious cat Coffee to live with her without any other people to cause him additional stress.

In December 2022, the end of Kirby’s fixed-term agreement was approaching, and Kirby’s agent asked the landlord about renewing Kirby’s lease. Within a few days, the property management had been transferred to a new agency, and a few weeks later, Kirby was issued with an unexpected termination notice. 

It was Christmas and I was feeling like I'd probably get a renewal offer with a rent increase and I could decide if I wanted to pay it or move. 

Then in early January I received the email with the termination notice. No cause given.

After an immediate panic, I hopped on to start looking for a new place. I sent inspection requests to a bunch of places. Once I saw how much rent was going to be ($600 for a one-bed in Newtown) and the shock wore off, I called the agent asking if there was any chance I could renew for more rent. The answer was no and the agent said they were unable to disclose the reason for termination as the owner had 'forbidden them' from saying anything. 

I spent most of the rest of the day crying. I felt confused because I wasn't given a reason for needing to move out. I questioned if I was a bad tenant or person and if the owner just didn't like me and therefore wanted me out. 

Kirby spent the first few months of 2023 frantically searching for a new home for herself and Coffee, amidst the worsening NSW rental crisis.

Once the grief that I was being forced out of what I had made mine and my cat's home wore off and I accepted that there was nothing I could do, I kept searching for a new place, going to inspections as often as possible, figuring out how much rent I could afford if I had nothing left for anything but essentials.

Then I started looking in suburbs I didn't really want to live in and was still faced with the competition of 50 people at an inspection for a pretty average apartment. I got rejection after rejection because the rent for a one bed was over 30-40% of my salary and I was constantly being beaten by couples or friends who had more income combined than me.

I was messaging people on facebook groups looking for housemates and to no avail. In one facebook group, there would be at least 20 people messaging someone about the advertised room so I only ever heard back from one or two people because they were so inundated with messages and options.

Later, I contacted the agent again, offering to pay an extra $50 a week if I could stay even just for 3 more months to find a new home. The answer was no, the owner "needed the property back". 

In the end, I found that it was so they could raise the rent by $80/week. The fact that the owner proceeded with the termination after being offered $50 more per week by me, just to get an extra $80/week on relisting, meaning he'd lose 2 weeks rent in the process, is bonkers to me. 

I’ve calculated that in the 12 months I lived in that apartment I paid $24,440 off the owner's mortgage. 

Kirby has now been able to move into the spare bedroom of the apartment a friend of hers owns, and she hopes the rental market will calm down in the next few months. However, this experience made Kirby extremely worried for her anxious cat, Coffee’s wellbeing, and frustrated by the power landlords and agents have to upturn renters’ lives.

I was extremely worried about how my already very anxious cat would cope with a move, especially if the only option was to live with 2-3 other people in a sharehouse. I thought about giving him back to the person I rehomed him from because that was more stable than my living situation and I didn't want him to face the stress of a new environment and new people, possibly more than once a year.

I think our renting situation is crazy. Many people are forced to rent because house prices are far too high for anyone to buy, but the rental market has become extremely unaffordable. It’s garbage, and I don't know how people are affording it. 

I want landlords to stop exploiting tenants by making rents higher than they need to be. As for politicians, the election promises are a nice idea but I don't trust they'll follow through. 

Ending no grounds evictions for periodic leases would be good but I can easily see tenants currently on periodic leases being forced to either sign a new lease, at whatever inflated rent the owner likes, or being kicked out and forced to find a new rental. Which is basically impossible in this market. We need an end to all no-cause evictions, regardless of lease type and caps on rental increases (as in the ACT) at a minimum. Separately, I also think there should be a cap on how many properties anyone can own.