In January, as I was enjoying my annual leave, I received a no-grounds termination notice for my apartment in Sydney’s inner west. My lease was coming to an end in February but after what I thought was a successful inspection with both the owner and agent in December, I expected to get a renewal offer with a rent increase and I could decide what I wanted to do. I was a good tenant who paid rent on time and immediately addressed any issues that came up with the property. All in all, I figured I was in a pretty good position. But then I got the email on my phone alerting me that I had been evicted and dread washed over me. I had to be out in under five weeks.
I rang the agent to ask why the notice was issued and was told that the owner had “forbidden” them from saying anything. I asked if I could stay if I paid more rent. The answer was no. After the initial shock wore off – and after coming to terms with the fact that there was no recourse for me thanks to a lack of protections for tenants in New South Wales – I began a frantic search for a new apartment.
After a few weeks of intense stress, attending every inspection possible and applying for any apartment that was even remotely liveable, and within my budget, I realised that it wasn’t going to be possible for me to continue to live alone anywhere within an hour of the CBD without a significant rent increase for a worse apartment.
I turned to flatmates.com.au and Facebook groups of people renting rooms in share houses. Again, there was intense competition as thousands of people struggled to find a home they could afford. In the end, I was extremely fortunate to have a friend who owned her apartment offer her spare bedroom for me to stay in. I’m incredibly lucky to have had that as an option.
I have anxiety and have experienced some very intense periods of it where I could barely function. But being evicted suddenly and without any notice has been among the worst of them. I was forced out of the place where I had made my home. I worked out that in the time that I had lived there, I had paid $24,440 off the owner’s mortgage, but that meant nothing.
For a while my situation was all consuming. How much rent could I afford if it meant having nothing left for anything but essentials? Where would I put all my stuff? How long was it going to take before I might feel better again? I later found out that the apartment was leased out for $80 more a week, which is infuriating.
I recently drove past my old apartment – I now live 20-30 minutes’ drive away – and was overcome by sadness as I remembered how much I had loved living there and how much it hurt to have that safety and security taken away from me, just so someone could make more money.
I want people with the power to change things to know how difficult and damaging it is to experience housing stress. It’s reprehensible that so many people are subjected to similar or worse situations or forced to pay most of their wage in rent just to be housed in this city. And for anyone thinking, “If you don’t like renting, save to buy”, I say, “Where?” Sydney is where I work but it’s unaffordable to buy, and now rent, so what are we supposed to do?
Sadly, my experience is not uncommon and I’m fortunate that everything ended up OK. It could have been worse – as it is for so many.
Kirby Warren is a medical writer who lives in Sydney with her cat Coffee