I am currently sitting on my couch at home. Well, at the property that I rent from my landlord. I guess that makes it my home for right now, as I pay the landlord for that privilege. I am having a break between viewings of other rental properties as I race around all day to catch 15-minute viewing windows.
Why am I moving? I moved into a townhouse with a flatmate 10 months ago. I was trying something new. As a single parent with two kids, boys aged 8 and 10, Sydney is a soul-crushing place to afford to live. I theorised that sharing the costs and having a flatmate would ease my burden a bit. It hasn’t. It has made it worse.
This is not the fault of anyone, it’s just the nature of the circumstances, the property we are renting and the distance it is from my childrens’ school.
The lease is up in early October, and I’m on the hunt again for something for myself and my kids.
No flatmate. That ship has sailed.
So what’s my problem? Lots of other people in Sydney are on the rental market, and not complaining. Let me be clear. I’m not complaining about being a renter. Would I like to own my own place? Of course. Is it wildly unattainable? Absolutely. Have I come to terms with that? Yep.
What I haven’t come to terms with, or figured out the solution to, is how to present myself in a rental application so that I am not discriminated against. I have more than eight years of perfect rental history. I have never once been late with my rent. I have a stable full-time job in a professional role that pays me well.
I have maintained units, townhouses and houses (with yards) perfectly for all this time. I have glowing references from property managers, and from employers and personal referees. Regardless of all of this, no matter what I do, I am deemed a risky tenant by landlords.
Case in point, last weekend I viewed a property.
A two-bedroom unit that would have been perfect. It was within my price range. It had a good size master bedroom for my kids to share. It was by no means flash, but it would have suited us, most likely for a number of years. I disclosed all of this detail in my application. The rent is less than the rent I have paid for the last two years, so my ability to pay based on my tenancy history was obvious.
I was the only application following that viewing. The property manager advised me that my application was excellent and that they were putting it forward to the landlord that day. I then received an email from the property manager later that afternoon advising me my application had been declined. No explanation was given.
I rang them and asked what I could add to my application to overturn the decision. They advised me that there was nothing I could do to my application to alter the decision. The landlord wanted the property to stay on the market for additional inspections, and my application would go no further. I then commented that with no further explanation, she was leaving me to fill the gaps and those gaps looked to be based on my single parent status, or simply the fact that I had children.
The property manager, who seemed to be genuinely sorry, told me that without giving me any further information, she could say that I was on the right track with my assumptions.
I was quite furious about how the situation had played out. However, what could I do? I am at the mercy of judgemental landlords who know nothing about me, but make decisions about my worthiness and character. Is that an emotional response? Of course it is. How would it make you feel?
I’m not mad anymore. Now I’m just upset and a little bit stressed. I have to find something for my family to move into within the next six weeks. How many times are my applications going to be declined? Will I find something?
Friends have told me to lie on my applications. Say that my kids are only with me a couple of nights a week, rather than every night. However, that makes me wonder what a landlord would think of me then? Would they declare me a bad mother because I didn’t have full custody of my kids? Where does the judgement actually stop for me?
Then I have had friends offer to be listed on my applications as my ‘partner’ so that it looks like I’m not on my own. Is that the solution? I don’t want to do that. I shouldn’t have to do that. Eight years of proof that I can pay my rent on time means I shouldn’t have to do that.
What do I do? I am genuinely asking. Because I just don’t know what the answer is.
For right now, I’m going to wipe away a few loose tears and head out to the next viewing. I have to put a roof over my kids’ heads, and I will.
I am their mum, their carer, their provider, their cook, their cleaner, their driver, their healer, their everything, and I will do whatever I have to do to look after them. I just wish sometimes that it wasn’t so damned hard all the time.
Have you been discriminated against renting as a single parent or with a family? Tell us in the comments.