real life

Rental nightmares: Australians share their worst renting experiences

By Lucia Stein, Emily Sakzewski and Jack Hawke

The first national survey of housing tenants has revealed renters in Australia lack the power to demand standard property maintenance.

Tenants are putting up with poor-quality housing and many fear being evicted or blacklisted if they complain to their landlord, according to the researchers.

Many renters have contacted the ABC to tell of their experiences of being discriminated against for their age, pet bans and abusive landlords.

Many other people who talked to the ABC did not want all of their details disclosed for fear of retribution.

Here are some of their experiences.

Leisa: ‘The last straw was the day I found mushrooms’

After a series of maintenance issues — including mould — at their rental home in Hackham, South Australia, mushrooms growing out of the shower were the final straw for Leisa Yanner and her family.

Along with her husband Aaron and their three children, Leisa began looking for a new home — only to constantly be turned down.

It was only when they were inspecting another property, the 34-year-old voiced her suspicions to the prospective agent that her old agent would try and prevent them from leaving.

“The new agent called us later the next day and told us that our old agent was giving us a bad reference,” she said.

“I was able to prove that none of that was true, and this land agent gave us a chance! We love our new house, and have had no problems!”

Anne: ‘We had to bodge job it ourselves’

Anne, 24, was renting an old Queenslander-style house in Brisbane during the 2011 floods.

While luckily the house was spared from flooding, it didn’t stop the house from water damage which led to a leaky roof that dripped through the asbestos ceiling, and from the rear stairs falling in, leaving a 3 metre drop.

“Shoddy workmanship” meant the phone lines had been severed and when the real estate agent ignored her emails, Anne said she “had to bodge job it ourselves with electrical tape”.

Anne’s lease came to an end and the house was marked for demolition — but that wasn’t the end of her problems.

“The real estate still demanded we had the entire unit steam cleaned, and asked us to go back twice to clean dust off the windowsills and fix the oven — which next week we saw get tossed into a dumpster as we walked past.”

Ellen: ‘They said I was too young, don’t bother applying’

Ellen found it hard applying for her first property.

“The landlord came out and basically said you’re too young, don’t bother applying.”


The real estate agent told the 25-year-old to use her parents on the application form, even though they were not tenants in the property.

“I mean, that’s fraudulent, so it really opened my eyes that we were basically being told to break the law.”

On a separate occasion, Ellen was told the landlord did not want students.

“I found that really odd because what if you were 40 and you were a student? I mean if you went into a store and someone said we don’t serve students that would just be outrageous but here were landlords saying they didn’t want students.”

Since becoming a pet owner, Ellen’s rental problems have shifted to landlords who don’t allow pets — something she believes is unfair.

“It just creates a stratified society — where the chance to enjoy the companionship of a pet really depends on whether you own your own property or not.”

Mat: ‘We had to leave our dogs behind’

Mat Skewes moved from Melbourne to the Gold Coast in October 2016.

Mr Skewes, 31, found work but struggled to find accommodation because of his two dogs, Choc and Missy.

“The rental market up here is crazy. No-one accepts pets. We found it really hard to find somewhere liveable and affordable to bring the dogs with us, which unfortunately we couldn’t find.

“The houses that accept animals are really expensive or they’re … not derelict but definitely questionable.

“Unfortunately we had to leave our dogs behind, and now we’re in a struggle to try and find somewhere affordable for us to purchase to get them up here.”

Kelly: ‘Everything turned into bartering wars’

In southern Sydney, Kelly Donnelly found the rental market extremely competitive.

“It was just very difficult — you’d go to a place and there would be like 50 people there.

“I went to one house in Woolooware and it was queued from the door all the way up the street, and everything turned into bartering wars.”

Ms Donnelly, 45, said she also had issues trying to rent a large house as she is a single woman.

“I was asked by one agent, ‘why do I want such a big house for myself? How can I afford it?'”

In one instance, Ms Donnelly signed a lease for a property only to discover the owners would be still living in it.

“I tore up the lease, sent a pic to the agent and said I didn’t sign up for this shit and left the keys and torn up lease at the local pub, as he had left the real estate office,” she said.


“It really is a nightmare out there trying to rent something — especially long term.”

Naomi: ‘I was cleaning up sewage for three weeks’

About a week after Naomi moved into her house, she started to have issues with the plumbing, which had backed up.

First there were constant sewage leaks from the ensuite bathroom which made her bedroom smell, then the second bathroom blocked up and overflowed sewage up the shower drain and all over the floor, before the water system completely blocked up and water filled the kitchen sink.

“Every water outlet was blocked, overflowing and unusable. Not one toilet was usable,” Naomi said.

“All the landlord did for a whole week was to come and plunge one of the toilets, and make a stinking mess when he did it a few times.”

Naomi said she was cleaning up sewage for three weeks and had to take time off work.

“I had to get the local council to send someone to do a health inspection report, to try to get the landlord to do something about it all.”

“In the end, we had to move out, as he was also going crazy and shouting at me, and said it wasn’t his responsibility to fix it and that we should just go to the toilet in the neighbour’s yard!”

“It was such an ordeal and so upsetting, as we had to move so suddenly and we lost money.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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