I am a statistic. I am one of an ever growing number of senior women who does not own a home. I rent, so am at the mercy of the landlord. And no, I am not a bludger or a useless person. I have worked hard most of my life, I have a university degree and a teaching diploma. I have worked hard, except for those occasions when illness stopped me. I had very little super as I did casual jobs which did not offer any.You were just grateful to get any job in this high unemployment regional area. I did not get much money when my marriage ended and our house was sold, the small amount I did get was not enough to get another housing loan. I just never caught up again.
So, only a few mornings before I was to leave on a wonderful holiday, which was a gift, my landlord who is also my neighbour came to my door. I thought he had just come to borrow some milk for his coffee, but no, he came to tell me that he wanted me to move out because I ‘stressed him out’. After my bewildered ‘but why’ when I had lived there for over sixteen years, he basically told me that I was responsible for vandalising the property and he just wanted a quiet life because he is in poor health.
Well, if you can picture this 65-year-old neat and tidy nana ‘vandalising’ the security lights (which I need to get up my ‘railing less’ steps) then you are as confused as I am. There have been new tenants on another part of the property who have broken several other things on the property, but no, it was me apparently (They are related to him, so they are blameless). There was no logic to it. And his nasty parting words were “enjoy your holiday”.
Well I did enjoy my holiday and came back to the task of finding a place to live. Not easy as they are very rare. I could not go through a real estate agent as you need references and I’m sure he would not give me a complimentary one, in spite of a print out of my regular rent payments. So I looked for a private one. I also came back to find someone had been in my little granny flat and some things were missing. Something that has never happened to me in that place before. I feel unsafe there now.
What is out there is dodgy in the extreme. Damp, mouldy and dark and dingy. But they get people because there are people out there (including myself) who need somewhere to live. And you are expected to be grateful and fork out high rent for places which are almost uninhabitable.
I have volunteered in a community agency and women my own age have slept in their cars as they cannot find a home to rent. Is this their fault? Well sometimes addiction, mental health and other issues can be a contributing factor, but often they are just unlucky. One homeless man I spoke to was sick for a few weeks, so his casual job did not pay him, he could not pay his rent and then his car broke down. He needed the car to do his job, so he was in a catch twenty two situation. Within six weeks he was homeless and there was no coming back from it.
I have found somewhere to live, but it is over half of my pension. It is clean and newly renovated. I will survive because I have to. I will try to keep my small car running as this place has no public transport nearby. I have friends and family who will hopefully help me to shift. I will have a garage sale to sell anything surplus to try and give me a buffer. I applied to Housing NSW to get help with the twelve hundred dollar bond required, and they are not going to help as my rent is over half of my income, and that means I will be on the poverty line. Well, as I suggested to the helpful woman on the phone, if you can find me a liveable mould free, damp free home for under three hundred dollars a week, then go ahead. There was no answer because of course, there is no answer.
Landlords have the right to have reliable, quiet and responsible tenants who pay their rent on time. I was one of these tenants, but as I had no tenancy agreement or lease, I was advised I could be thrown out the next day as all of the power was in his hands. I think this is appalling. Years of regular rent payments, beautifying my little granny flat, being quiet and thoughtful of others means nothing. So tenants should have rights too. Not that I would want to stay here now after all that has happened, but at my age, and feeling a little fragile at times, I would just love the security of having a home that I could stay in until I chose to leave, not one that someone can choose to throw me out of on a whim.