'I’m taking my landlord to tribunal for upping our rent by $350 a week.'

It’s not the best time to be a tenant — if you haven’t received a rent increase already, you’re probably nervous that you will.

Earlier this year, my nerves turned into reality when I received an email from my property manager (on a Friday afternoon at 5.07pm, no less). We’d reported a smell in the house just four days earlier.

“Notice of rental increase” was the subject line. I cracked my neck to each side and took a deep breath in preparation, opening it with the hopes it wouldn’t be anything too wild.

Looking back, it’s almost laughable how naive I was.

The email said that our three-bedroom, two bathroom townhouse would be going from $1,900 a fortnight to $2,600 a fortnight.

I quickly did the math and somehow didn’t spontaneously combust. We were looking at a $700 fortnightly increase, and we’d have roughly 60 days to figure out what the hell we were going to do.

‘Surely not,’ I thought to myself. Surely this is a typo? Surely a rent increase of 37% is illegal?

On a periodic lease in New South Wales, as long as there’s 60 days written notice and you haven’t received another increase within 12 months, a landlord is well within their rights to increase your rent as much as they like.

Listen to The Quicky discuss long-term renting below. Article continues after podcast. 

It was a rude shock for me to learn this, but because our house had successfully negotiated with our property manager in the past, we wanted to see if we could at least try and work something out.

The following Monday morning at 9.01am (we wanted to alleviate this anxiety as soon as humanly possible), we asked if the $350 weekly rent increase was open for discussion.

At first, it felt promising. Our property manager entertained the idea and asked what our counteroffer would be — it was $100 (an increase of just over 10%) based on another three-bedroom property in the area — before they told us the landlord wouldn’t be budging on the $350 weekly increase.

I want to be really clear when I say this: we were never trying to evade the rent going up altogether. We understood that our landlord’s mortgage repayments might’ve been affected by interest rates. We simply wanted to find a solution that was fair and reasonable for both parties.

We felt we were being considerate of the landlord by still offering an increase, but, once we were told there was no wiggle room, it became clear that they weren’t going to be considerate of us.

Let’s call a spade, a spade: handing out an exorbitant rent increase is a thinly veiled eviction notice. It’s also a surefire way to make any tenant feel subhuman.

It’s definitely how I felt after receiving the news, and how I feel for renters at large as I learn about excessive rent increases that are infiltrating homes around Australia right now.

Moving is a stressful experience at the best of times, let alone in this market (you know, the one that’s consistently referenced to justify rent increases). According to SQM Research, the vacancy rate in Sydney was at a staggeringly low 1.3% between January and March this year.

Rental inspections have lines hours long and people are having to go to questionable lengths in order to nab a roof from the competition. Tenants are forced into a Hunger Games situation, where the fear and desperation of housing insecurity pits them against one another.

@chantellecschmidt Tribunal preparation takes time, sweat and tears. #tribunal #ncat #rentincrease ♬ original sound - Chantelle Schmidt

Unfortunately, the housing crisis is one of the driving forces as to why landlords and property managers know they can slap such ludicrous increases on their tenants — it’s either suck it up and pay, or risk being homeless.

It begs the question of how many landlords and property managers are taking advantage of their tenants, and just how little they care about our basic physiological needs. As reported by SBS, one in four landlords in NSW have already have paid off their mortgage. So where is the moral responsibility?


I’m not a mother. I don’t live with a disability. I’m not a victim of domestic violence. “Lucky” isn’t the first word that comes to mind when receiving a $350 weekly increase, but my privilege in this situation is not lost on me.

It’s why I feel comfortable (as much as I possibly can) with taking this matter to the New South Wales Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). But not everyone can do this because taking formal action has consequences.

“People have to consider the likely success of their [tribunal] application and also the consequences of making the application, unfortunately,” Leo Patterson Ross, CEO of Tenants Union, said, explaining that doing so in NSW can put your references at risk for future leases.

If I get evicted as a result of standing up for myself — which, let's be honest, is a very real possibility — at least I have the option to move back in with mum. It’s away from the life, career, independence and relationships I’ve built here in the city over the last decade, but look, I’ll survive. Not everyone can say that.

This is why I’ve put myself forward as somewhat of a case study for renters who feel like they’ve been taken for a ride. By documenting the whole bloody thing on TikTok I can both shine a light on a broken system and serve as a reference point for those either in a similar situation, or those who are anxious they will be.

@chantellecschmidt Our tribunal date was adjourned. This is what happened in the leadup to receiving that notification. #rentincrease #tribunal #rentalcrisis ♬ original sound - Chantelle Schmidt

Does it freak me the hell out that people are following along in the hopes that I set a precedent for fighting rent increases? That they’re counting on me to “win” at the upcoming tribunal hearing?


Absolutely. It keeps me up at night, along with the comments telling me that I’m “entitled”, that I should “just move” or that if I don’t like it, I should “just get out”.

What worries me is that those comments aren’t just for me. They’re for an entire sea of renters who are being made to feel like nuisances just because they want to be treated fairly. That they’re complaining for requesting the bare minimum in maintenance issues. That they’re a pain in the ass if they, god forbid, don’t want to live with mould that impacts their health.

Are we meant to simply accept unfair rental increases and conditions?

It’s because of this severe power imbalance between renters and landlords that I feel the responsibility to stand up in the best way that I know how. I want to remind landlords and property managers that their tenants are humans and not just a business transaction.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ignorant — I know that not all landlords and property managers take advantage of their tenants. In fact, looking at the TikTok comments and learning about how some landlords have looked after their tenants has been heartwarming.

However, from what I’m seeing at least, there are far too many that are — especially with the market being what it is, alongside current legislation making way for them to capitalise on the misfortune of others.

But, as someone once told me, “Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should.”

Chantelle Schmidt is a freelance writer and media expert.