The pitfalls of renting are many and varied. From not having the long-term stability of living in one place year after year, to constantly being at the whim of landlords’ decisions to increase rents, to not being able to hang your mirror in a spot where you can actually see your head and your body at the same time. There are some upsides, like not being responsible for plumbing repairs or tree removal, but that about covers it.
Aside from property, most other assets actually depreciate over time. That new car you just bought will be worth half what you paid for it in just 2 years, your office photocopier worth a little less with each tax return.
Yet year after year, renters find themselves paying more each week for what is essentially an older, more worn out version of the building where they eat, sleep and do laundry.
As sure as the sun rises, renters know one day they will have to move out. Unable to renew our 12-month lease, we had been put on a Periodic Lease, also known as month-to-month. It lasted nine months, during which time we were in a state of limbo, scanning real estate websites wondering whether we should move now? Or now? Or soon?
When we were officially given our marching orders it was a two-edged sword. We were thankful to have some clarity and deadlines, but we knew that the process awaiting us was so tiring! Even after you’ve stopped looking for possible places to call home, you’re constantly comparing your soon-to-be-home with your not-for-much-longer-home.
A 10-minute inspection is hardly enough time to store the answers to all the questions that will pop into your head at 11.30 at night a week later. Did the new place have a double sink in the kitchen? Will our big, old couch fit in the lounge room? How many mates does it take to move a cupboard? All first-world problems, sure, but some that I can certainly do without.
With over 23% of Australian households living in private rental accommodation, our situation isn’t unique. In some European countries, where renting isn’t seen as the second-rate option it is here, the figures are much higher, closer to 60%.
Renters there have better rights and more stability, being able to secure long-term leases at capped rental rates. Here I had to grovel for a 2-year lease, and even then it’s got a rent rise already built into it. Apparently it’s so unusual that even the computer payment system at the real estate office couldn’t handle the two year timeframe, so it spat out a helpful statement saying we had an amount outstanding of $8.47 in order to balance the figures over the two years.
On the plus side, at our new place there are different gardens to explore, sunny balconies on which to relax and welcome roof insulation under which to appreciate the early warm weather. And then there’s the endless revolving conversation with the pre-schooler about why he likes the old house or the new house better on any given day. Oh, and another leaking tap to fix. At least I only need to remember one number to call for all my repairs…