Greed, expense, stress: Renters' woes highlight dark side of housing crisis

The plight of a single mother thrown into an emotional and financial nightmare at the end of her rental lease shines a light on the reality behind the statistics defining the rental and housing crisis.

Worried young woman evicted from property sits on floor near moving boxes with head in hands.
Renters are often deprived of their bond on spurious grounds at the conclusion of a lease. (Image source:

In the latest statistical marker that the rental crisis is worsening, the proportion of properties listed for rent at $400 per week or less has halved in a year.

PropTrack analysis of listings, released on Tuesday (23 May) also revealed that in April advertised rents had risen 11 per cent year-on-year.

The nation’s rental market is in dire straits, with little sign of meaningful reprieve on the horizon. Advertised rents are recording strong price increases and vacancy rates are at historic lows due to a shortage of rental supply.

But amid the continued outpouring of damning statistics, the human side of housing crisis is often lost.

When occasional author Cécile Halford, of Mount Hawthorn, Western Australia witnessed the plight of her renting neighbour and friend, she was moved to contact API Magazine to detail the plight that is a reality for those forced to move as the supply of rental properties diminishes.

She details the expenses, frustration and desperation felt by evictees driven out by owners selling properties they can no longer afford to debt-service or raising rents beyond the occupants’ reach.

“My neighbour had to move,” Ms Halford began.

“The owner wanted to sell and wouldn’t renew her lease. It came at the end of February and within days they were evicted.

She has two children, one income.

She did find another place, not in an area or house of her choice, and had to spend numerous weekends at home opens, along with dozens of other people and on several occasions was gazumped, beaten by a higher bid, resulting in many wasted days.

Homelessness is a many-headed hydra. There are different levels; not every homeless person is sleeping in a doorway.

People sofa surf, sleep in sheds, garages, tents, cars or temporary accommodation.

Of life’s curve balls, the reasons for homelessness can be distilled down to the 5 Ds; divorce, desertion, death, dismissal, disability.

We have no control over these life events that nearly all will experience to their financial detriment along the way.

There is a lot of lip service paid to the situation, all while people struggling to find roofs over their heads.

It’s become critical, with VincentCare estimating that on any given night in Australia, one in 200 people are homeless. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates there are 116,000 homeless people in Australia at any given time, in addition to the 640,000 households are in housing stress, whereby they are living in overcrowded or expensive rentals costing more than 30 per cent of income.

Women over 55 are now the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia.

Of the total number of homeless people, 17 per cent are children under 12 years of age, and another 10 per cent are aged between 12 and 18.

Add to that figure returned veterans, immigration, evictions.

There is not enough available accommodation.


People are living in arrangements that have no security, stability, privacy, safety or ability to control living space.

The change in available accommodation has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. People are returning to Australia from overseas, migration is taking off. Landlords no longer able to fund rental properties, while others end up on short-term accommodation sites like Airbnb.” 

Key workers forced to suburban outskirts

Meanwhile, there is an empty property next door to me.

In an ideal world, the property would be let to a young professional couple who want to start of have a young family.

Let’s call them Suzi and Steve, a police officer and teacher. Unfortunately buying or renting this property is out of their reach in a housing market that is currently off the Richter scale.

Their salaries are $74,874 (after income tax that’s $60,073) and $85,020 ($66,932 post-tax). So, after income tax they are left with $127,000.

The house is on the market for $1.2 million. The owner bought it for $330,000 in 2001.

A standard mortgage is now paid over 30 years, so the monthly repayments of $5,878 a month actually equate to a final paid price of $2.1 million (if they are first able to amass the pre-sale deposit of $200,000).

In addition, they will pay the insidious stamp (or transfer) duty of around $57,000.

They will also need to find a $438 transfer fee and $188 in government fees, plus any other ‘financial products’ they are persuaded to buy when taking out their mortgage. They will also be liable for local taxes, legal fees and property inspections.

Suzi and Steve will be entrapped within the crisis-riddled rental markets by not buying or overstretched to the limit if they manage to buy. They probably won’t be able to afford a baby. 

In reality, they won’t be able to jump the first hurdle because they don’t have $200,000 for the deposit.

If they can’t get financial help from another source, like family, they will never be able to buy their own home, at least not within 50 kilometres of their workplaces. They’ll be subject to the commands of the owners of their rental properties.

There are an estimated 36 per cent of people renting in Australia.

The house where I live, and the similar one next door isn’t exceptional. It’s 21 years old on block subdivided into three houses.

The banks maximise their record profits through home loans.

Australia's big four banks — ANZ, CommBank, NAB and Westpac — now hold $1.87 trillion in home loans. They had a combined cash profit after-tax of $14.4 billion in 2022, up $700 million from 2021. 

Meanwhile, building companies are collapsing in the thousands.”

Emotional, financial cost of being moved on

“There have been numerous tenants renting next door.

My ex-neighbour was one of the good, decent ones. She was hammered for every dollar the owner could extract from her at the end of her lease.

She was made to pay $1,100 for a ‘preferred professional cleaner’ of the rental agency’s choice, the work of which was then deemed unacceptable, so she had to go back and clean it again herself.

Her rental bond was withheld and the owner tried to charge for a complete refurbishment of the exterior lighting at $2,000, and replacement of a reticulation pipe – value $30, invoiced at $300.

My ex-neighbour is now in the process of taking the owner to court. She was a good tenant and paid her rent, over $700 a week, on time, every month, in advance.

Along with the charge for her new bond, rent overlaps at the two properties, repairs to the rental property and the removalist, she is around $6,000 out of pocket. She’s in a house she didn’t particularly want and an area she, and her children would not have chosen, yet her rent has increased. The children have had to move away from their friends.

The house next door is now under offer and we have to grit our teeth and hope we get a decent ‘Steve and Suzi’ moving in next door.

Unruly neighbours and incompetent rental managers can make or break lives, as we have experienced in the ten years we’ve lived here.

If governments, banks and the private sector cannot get together to solve this housing supply and rental crisis, difficult times and more social deterioration can be expected as financial burdens generate more and more stress and hardship.”

Article Q&A

How many people are homeless in Australia?

VincentCare estimates that on any given night in Australia, one in 200 people are homeless. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates there are 116,000 homeless people in Australia at any given time.

What are the causes of homelessness?

While the reasons for homelessness are many and varied, some primary causes can be distilled down to the 5 Ds; divorce, desertion, death, dismissal, disability.

What is housing stress?

An estimated 640,000 households in Australia are in housing stress, whereby they are living in overcrowded or expensive rentals costing more than 30 per cent of their income.

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