Low-rent behaviour by greedy landlords is feeding the rental crisis

I guess I am wasting my time commenting on the screed by the Leftist Jenna Price below but I would like to point out a few things anyhow. The key to her plaint is in the very title of her article: "Low rent".

It is absolutely true that low rent properties are often of a poor standard. Landlords who keep their properties at a high standard CANNOT AFFORD to charge low rents.

Let me give an example: In my days when I had 6 properties to rent out, I kept them all at a standard that I would myself be happy to live with. And I always brought them up to a high standard before I put them into the hands of agents

My reward for that? In one YEAR my income from one 5 bedroom house after all repairs and maintenance had been paid for was $500. And I had many thousands invested in that house. I sold it. It was an impossible investment.

It's an extreme example but costs are a big problem for a landlord and emptyheads like Jenna Price have no idea of them. So the idea that landlording is a lucrative racket is way off. Do I sound "greedy"? It's just Leftist hate-speech below.

So "you pays your money and you takes your choice". If you are ready or able to pay only low rent, you will get a property that the landlord cannot afford to keep up to a high standard. He would do his dough if he did. The rent is low BECAUSE the property is undesirable

"Forcing" the landlord to upgrade the property would almost certainly lead him to increase the rent he asks -- so he can get a return on his investment -- and that might be exactly what poor people do NOT want. It would REDUCE their options. Government "protection" can easily worsen rather than help the situation. But in her Leftist mental straitjacket, Jenna Price has not thought of that

My mother’s advice was that I should buy a house. That was 1983. That advice is no longer fine or even possible for most, Bank of Mum and Dad notwithstanding. Many mums and dads are now still paying off their own mortgages.

We were desperate to avoid increasingly rapacious landlords or their proxies, otherwise known as real estate agents. Toilets only flushed by bucket. Floorboards on the verge of perishing. Terrifyingly unpredictable electrical faults. Forty years on, stories from some renters are the same as my own.

I’ve watched generations deal with some rentals barely fit for human habitation. How long will it be before a renter sues a landlord for the harms caused by black mould or because the ceiling has fallen in because of unrelenting rain? Many landlords and agents have no interest in spending money to maintain the properties which generate their wealth. There is hardship for those who inhabit these cash castles and too many distressing cases for our collective good conscience.

Landlordism has gone wild in this country, enabled by real estate agents. The state government ignores the problem. It’s been in power since, what, 2011 and finally “outlawed” unsolicited rental bidding in November. That stops the agent from explicitly soliciting but doesn’t prevent accepting higher bids from prospective tenants.

What governments should do is ban “no grounds” evictions (code for we are getting rid of you because you can’t afford our rent increase). That’s at least a NSW Labor election promise (and one Victorian Labor has – more or less – legislated). Is the NSW government planning on anything at all after a decade? It’s like pulling teeth trying to get a commitment.

“These laws are currently under review and an announcement is expected shortly,” a spokesperson for Fair Trading tells me. Every time governments introduce the prospect of reform, vested interests go ballistic. “It will force landlords out of the market,” they may cry. “It will discourage property investors.” None of that’s happened.

We have a terrible rental crisis in this country, worsened by the slow rate of construction completions during COVID. But the real problem is this – owning investment property is a sure way to turn a profit. Landlords don’t recognise their responsibility in providing a basic human right – the right to have somewhere safe to live. Here’s the bigger problem. Most tenants only have relationships with real estate agents who rarely act in the tenants’ best interests. Their responsibility is to the landlord. No one has the best interests of tenants at heart.

An exaggeration? In August last year, one real estate agency bragged about its biggest rent increase of the week. It later apologised because it was sprung for bad behaviour. In October, another agency urged landlords to consider raising rents by more than 20 per cent.

Ask around for rental stories: homes which can’t be locked, gas leaks, water leaks from baths, showers, toilets, broken windows, mould, faulty wiring, ovens which never work, not even on day one, no insulation. Comedian Mark Humphries tweeted he was in his second-straight rental property where the owner refused to bear the cost of connecting to the NBN. A reminder that improvements to the property remain with the property, owned by the landlord.

Then we’ve got the behaviour of the agents. Readers have supplied horrific examples of rudeness, of refusal to respond to urgent requests and, creepily, of agents wandering around the rental property taking photos willy-nilly. Contracts professor at the University of Melbourne Katy Barnett says renters have a right to be worried.

“I doubt agents are even considering privacy concerns,” she says. Sure, you can ask how the photos are stored and how long they’ll be kept for but if someone can’t get back to you about your broken toilet, doubt you’ll be getting a response on privacy breaches.

One in three Australians rent. The rules which surround renting are wafty as. It should be a scandal but states and territories are clearly beholden to Big Landlord (and federal governments are sadly cowed by the “negative gearing is my wealth right” crew).

Michael Fotheringham, managing director of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, says rental vacancies are the lowest they’ve been in 20 years. A three per cent vacancy rate is healthy. Right now, it’s about one and a bit. Queues at opens are right out the door.

Complaints to the NSW Tenants Union have doubled in 12 months. Complaints to Fair Trading have increased by 10 per cent in 12 months. But complaint numbers mean little – most tenants are too terrified to complain in case they get booted. As NSW Tenants Union CEO Leo Patterson Ross says, consumers can’t do the enforcement themselves. That should be an independent third party (also promised by NSW Labor but let’s see if it can stand up to Big Landlord).

Landlords are addicted to profits and not to a sustainable housing model. OK, #notalllandlords but too many to mention. They don’t get to face the heartbreak of the people who make their money for them. Landlords didn’t get into the business to provide a basic human right, they did it to make money. And that’s our problem right there.


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