Hope Alexander would be the first to say she is one of the lucky ones when it comes to paying rent.
During her 20 years as a resident in West Perth the rent has remained reasonable. But in the last few years a spate of security issues has made her feel vulnerable within the block of units where she lives.
Renting in Australia is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Shelter WA has sought case studies to coincide with the release of the next Rental Affordability Index (RAI) on December 1 2020. The RAI is an easy to understand indicator of rental affordability relative to household incomes.
For Hope, a single pensioner, safety is important. These are her private renting experiences.
“It all started three years back,” Hope says. “We had a very unpleasant tenant, who was running around the property with a pitchfork.
“He was being a menace to a young woman with a baby, and he would sneak around the place in the middle of the night, and we couldn’t go out after dark. All the women tenants were just too nervous.
“We wrote a letter to the strata company, but my landlady said she never got it, and nobody would lift a finger to do anything and the police just told me to move. I didn’t want to move as this was my home. I persevered and went to the restraining order court several times, but they could never find this bloke, so this situation dragged on for over a year.
“He would scream, and he yelled at me and he said he would lock me up. And the young women with the baby had to leave as he would bang on their front door and yell at them under the bathroom window when they were trying to have a shower.
“We collected photographic evidence but still nothing happened.”
In the end it was the non-payment of rent which got the man evicted.
“That was what it took,” Hope shakes her head, “Not paying the rent is serious but terrorising women, well that didn’t count.”
In Hope’s block of units some of the apartments are so small there is no space for a washing machine. Behind the units sits a small wash house. Some machines belong to the tenants and one coin-operated machine is for communal use.
“Somebody broke into the laundry, it was a cheap door which you can easily put your foot through it,” explains Hope.
“They stole the money, probably a few dollars to buy you know what. The strata people put up another door and three times in three months the door has been broken.
“We don’t have a secure laundry and lately we have had men appearing from nowhere using those machines. We don’t know where they come from, they just appear, they don’t live on site and it’s a worry and an inconvenience.
“I’ve asked strata management for a proper door with a keypad so only tenants can get in, but nothing has been done yet.”
It is Hope’s belief many issues in her block can be managed with an electronic gate across the drive. Located on an L-shaped block with only one entrance a gate could keep the block secure.
“I have noticed other places have a gate with a PIN pad,” Hope said.
“We just can’t stop people from coming in on the property,” she said. “One night somebody dug up my shrubs which I had planted and then somebody nicked the silver beet. I mean who steals silver beet?
“This is what happens when you have private landlords, they used to put down a smaller deposit expecting the tenant to pay all the outgoings, and they didn’t want to pay for maintenance or anything. This, I believe, is the issue.”
If you are a landlord, you can make a difference. You can make renting a better experience for people like Hope by responding to maintenance in a timely way and by listening to the concerns of your tenant when it comes to issues of security like Hope’s.
The RAI is produced in partnership with National Shelter, Bendigo Bank, and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Visit the Shelter WA RAI page here.