‘I want to free myself of the rent worries that keep me up at night’

Jun 19, 2019
She'd done her homework and knew she could afford it, but the banks weren't willing to get behind her. Source: Getty Images

It was time for my lease to be renewed again. I always got nervous when this time of year came around. I had a landlord who was not a particularly nice person and I never knew if he was going to renew my lease or not. He had threatened me once before, because he reneged on maintenance he had promised. I could not move because, try as I might, I could not find anywhere else to move to. The very few places available for rent, were sought after by many and agents put a pensioner on the bottom of the list, even a pensioner with an impeccable track record over the past five years. He did renew my lease though, but there was a catch — my rent had increased by $160 a month. I had no choice and just had to manage.

Recently, I saw a tiny one-bedroom unit in a retirement village for sale. My tiny amount of super could pay the deposit and, as I calculated, I could pay the mortgage and a bit more to cover rates etc. and still be about $100 a week better off than paying this rent, not to mention I wouldn’t worry about being put out or my rent increasing again, which I absolutely cannot afford. I made enquiries.

After a couple of days and lots of enquiries, I realised it was not going to happen. Even though I could prove I could do this, it was never going to be. First, I was “just on a pension”. It didn’t matter that it was a fixed income. Second, there was my age. Now anyone with sense could see that I’m no more of a risk at my age than someone younger than me. I concede a younger person has longer to pay off the loan, but they could die young, just as easily as I could die, being older than them. The banks couldn’t lose. If anything happened to me, my family would inherit the unit. They would either rent it out or sell it, so the banks would get their money. I couldn’t see what the problem was.

The Reserve Bank has made it easier for the banks to loan money. With the massive housing crisis, I would be one less the government had to worry about and I would be less likely to die of the stress that wondering where I will live will undoubtedly cause me. Banks lend hundreds of thousands of dollars to young people with jobs that are not guaranteed to last, every day. I couldn’t possibly be as big a risk.

Guess what? I am just one older Australian citizen who has not been fortunate enough to end up with a home or money. In the big scheme of things, me and people like me, are not very important. We are put on the bottom of the priority list and if the government is lucky, if the banks are lucky, we won’t cause any trouble, because after all, we are old!

As for my landlord. I have been caretaker of his unit for nearly five years. I believe he is entitled to make money on his investment property, but when I have to fight to get him to fix an exterior door that won’t close properly and he puts the rent up quite dramatically, there seems to be something wrong. To the government and the banks, perhaps one day it will hit them like a hammer on their heads that they’ve missed an opportunity to be human, while still doing their jobs. I feel they have missed a chance to make money and help some of us feel secure in our own home and take some of the pressure from the situation, which is making so many in this country homeless. No one is immune to life. One day the tables could be turned and my landlord, a bank CEO or a government official could find themselves in my shoes.

Have you been faced with a housing dilemma like this writer? Do you think there are enough opportunities for over-60s to get into the housing market?

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