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Estate agent dreaming. Renting in Canberra

By luisa_batalha 18 September 2011 31

How come Australians accept and comply with the renting situation in the country, poor quality housing to shocking prices, careless landlords and dishonest real estate agents?

I’m moving houses and this is an excerpt from the estate agent’s description of the property in order to attract a new tenant:

 “Character and charm!

A bright, leafy and private one bedroom semi detached heritage house in the heart of the city. Character and charm exude from this ideally located gem.

Great living space with renovated kitchen and updated bathroom/laundry, the spacious bedroom overlooks the shared rear garden”.

Having lived here for two years, here is my review of it: To begin with, to call this pimple on the side of the house a house in its own right is an incredible stretch of the truth. Not only in words, as the agent shows only three photos in the ad, all of them showing the main house with not even a glimpse of the actual place advertised.

Is all of this false advertising? Perhaps not, maybe its just opinion and opinions can differ from one person to another.

But it is misleading at the very least. I wonder what the Trade Practices Commission would have to say if Woolies advertised their bread rolls trying as hard as they could to get you in the store by pretending it was a full loaf of bread on offer.

Character and charm? The author of the ad may genuinely find this place charming. We’ve always said to ourselves there seems to be great character, if not charm in walking barefoot in the bedroom and feeling the holes in the floor under the carpet.

It also takes great character to steel oneself to either the cold or heating bills in the winter as the heat slips out unhindered through gaps in the windows and thin walls without insulation.

It’s also charming in a Spanish village boarding room kind of way to have the two of us trying to shower in the mornings with a hot water service that contains all of 50 liters!

As for the renovated kitchen it came as a surprise as I’ve never noticed it as being renovated. I guess though that it may have been somewhere back in the mists of time.

But the updated bathroom takes the cake.

Updated?

True, the tiles in the shower were recently replaced. But the whole truth is that is the one part of it that has been updated. The tiles were constantly falling off the walls of the shower because the plants outside had grown through the walls and were pushing them off. They were replaced. But the rest of it? A patchwork would describe it well as things have been chopped and changed over the years! Result: three different kinds of tiling and patches of concrete, some painted, some not: in other words, a patchwork. Charming? A wall seems to have been removed between the bathroom and laundry. I could go on, but enough said perhaps.

A “GEM”? Although not all rental properties are in bad condition, the misleading advertising I believe is quite representative of how real estate agents operate. Sure, people will quite easily see for themselves what a place is really like once they arrive for the inspection, but how are real estate agents any different from other businesses?

Why are they able to get away with such blatantly misleading advertising that other industries would be censured for?

As they are allowed to get away with this sort of blatant bending of the truth they clearly believe that truth and integrity are discretionary in their industry. Where does that leave vulnerable renters and purchasers?

Why does the government let them get away with it? Why do we let them get away with it? As a tenant it’s easy to feel as if one is a second class citizen. Don’t I deserve respect and honesty just because I don’t own my own house. The rule of market forces in housing in Australia means that home owners take as much as possible and give as little as possible. Does it need to be that way?

Here’s a suggestion for how tenants might become empowered. Why can’t we create a website where we could give property descriptions from a user’s perspective.

Perhaps something like the hotel reviews that go with online hotel booking sites. When you move out from a house, you would go into the site and write a review.

That would give tenants a better view of what a place is really like and perhaps places that don’t offer the value that their rental price and estate agent spruiking suggests might end up being offered for what they are really worth.

What happens now? Without any solidarity amongst tenants, people move out and people move in, with only the assurances from real estate agents and a quick, competitive glance through the property for the 15 minutes that the real estate agents routinely offer you at openings to make a judgment on the suitability of the property.

We are growing in number thanks to the wonders of unfettered market forces. At the moment there is very little by way of support for us. The laws are stacked in favour of the real estate agents and property owners. The laws as they apply to truth in advertising don’t appear to apply to real estate agents. Tenants are second class citizens without clout. We need to get some clout.

[ED the only problem with the plan is that property owners have more and better lawyers than renters on average.]


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31 Responses to
Estate agent dreaming. Renting in Canberra
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AngryIan 12:00 pm 28 Sep 12

Getting out of the rental trap is easy. I often help people to get into their own home without the bank process. What I find though is that many people will not accept a change in how things work and will say NO to any new idea.
Contact me at renttoown@homemail.com.au if you are serious about getting out of the rental trap.

Most landlords do not care and want the highest return for the lowest payout.
They rarely update a property and will only do so if they can’t rent it at the rate they want.
Even if it is negatively geared landlords do not want to spend on the property as it will affect their cash flow.
As to advertising – yes the agents are always “Gilding the Lily” and will even put false photos up. I have complained to the various government bodies but they are not willing to do anything about obvious false advertising. The government will do nothing about this if it stops the mighty $$$ flowing into the coffers.

On the other side though I have tried to get tenants out for not paying. It is hard and as a landlord I am very wary of renting to anyone these days.

Property Manager 12:49 pm 26 Sep 11

Sorry if this is getting a little away from the topic at hand, but I just have a quick comment for RentWiki:

I honestly welcome feedback from all tenants and clients. Good feedback is great, but bad feedback helps you identify room for improvement – and professionals act on this accordingly.

That said, there is always a chance that an unreasonably disgruntled former tenant might choose to give a serve to an agent on your site, and so far as I can tell there is no provision for the agent to offer a direct response.

You’ve stated that as long as a post/review complies with your behavioural policies you won’t delete it, and you’ve said that the only way someone can provide an alternate opinion or rebuttal is to complete their own review. This doesn’t really provide adequate ‘right of reply’ functionality

Much as you try, you simply can’t please all the people all the time, but if you are able to reply directly to negative feedback you can work on a resolution, or at least explain the other side of the situation so that readers have a BALANCED view.

Without this you really are facilitating slander and I think JB’s advice will become very poignant very quickly.

RentWiki 8:31 am 21 Sep 11

Regarding our comment that “We have no wish to disqualify a tenant’s experience so would not delete their review”, we qualify that by adding: Would not delete a review that complied with our posting guidelines and contained no illegal or antisocial behaviour. Such posts are Moderated to remove offending comments.

In addition, all posts are published with a “violation” button for people to request Moderation if they’re not in a position to make their own post about the property.

Happy house-hunting!

Regards,
http://www.RentWiki.com.au

RentWiki 8:22 am 21 Sep 11

MissChief said :

RentWiki said :

johnboy said :

You can burn up a lot of money on lawyers even when you’re in the right.

But good luck finding that out.

Onwards johnboy!

Love the idea Wikirent but I do worry that the “balance” you refer to is not apparent enough.

What seems to be missing from the site is a rent comparison for the property in question, i.e. is it cheap/expensive for its size and location? Cheaper rents may mean landlords are less willing to spend money on the property and some tenants prefer it that way.

Also there is no right of reply for owners/ real estate agents – the other side of the story, and how do reviews reflect a change of owner/ real estate agent and/or improvement of property?

Hi Miss Chief,

Thanks for your feedback!

The owners and agents right of reply is to post their own review of the property- either as rebuffal or after making required improvements and posting about those.

How do reviews reflect a change of owner/ real estate agent and/or improvement of property?

We have no wish to disqualify a tenant’s experience so would not delete their review. However multiple listings against a particualr property would then be shown in chronological order so a picture evolves that says even more about all parties involved and how quickly issues are resolved.

This unfolding dialogue around a property will help create the market transparency needed so all parties can make educated decisions about what’s best for them.

Regards,
http://www.RentWiki.com.au

arescarti42 4:36 pm 20 Sep 11

watto23 said :

While overall our economy is going well, its clear many parts of it are not going so well.

I think the only part of the economy going well is the mining sector. Retail, manufacturing, tourism, construction etc. are all doing pretty poorly if you believe the statistics.

watto23 said :

Property has been over inflated for a while and investors are not going to buy expensive property and then rent it out for less.

Buying an expensive property and renting it out for less than it costs is actually what the majority of Australian investors do (some ~70% IIRC). It’s called negative gearing, and it is a strategy that doesn’t work without strong capital gains.

MissChief 4:16 pm 20 Sep 11

RentWiki said :

johnboy said :

You can burn up a lot of money on lawyers even when you’re in the right.

But good luck finding that out.

Onwards johnboy!

Love the idea Wikirent but I do worry that the “balance” you refer to is not apparent enough.

What seems to be missing from the site is a rent comparison for the property in question, i.e. is it cheap/expensive for its size and location? Cheaper rents may mean landlords are less willing to spend money on the property and some tenants prefer it that way.

Also there is no right of reply for owners/ real estate agents – the other side of the story, and how do reviews reflect a change of owner/ real estate agent and/or improvement of property?

watto23 3:59 pm 20 Sep 11

Just how do we fix this problem? Dare I say a recession we have to have.
While overall our economy is going well, its clear many parts of it are not going so well.

Property has been over inflated for a while and investors are not going to buy expensive property and then rent it out for less.

Government will do nothing unless it will win them or the opposition more votes. Besides they are too busy arguing over which foreign country should get our illegal immgrants, as if the illegal immigrants would look up and atlas and say “F*&^ that” i’m not risking ending up in Nauru/Malaysia….

EvanJames 3:15 pm 20 Sep 11

GardeningGirl said :

low maintenance =
grass (not guaranteed to be alive, does not take into account size of area or time needed to mow)

Or if the property’s in Qbn, concrete! Concrete with one of those car port things that people are putting over their BBQs.

GardeningGirl 1:40 pm 20 Sep 11

The common denominator in bad experiences as a tenant and a landlord seems to be the agent. And “interesting” descriptions of properties are not exclusive to rentals, check out the for sales! To add to the online collection of translations of real estate speak, here’s my take on gardens.

low maintenance =
grass (not guaranteed to be alive, does not take into account size of area or time needed to mow)

established low maintenance =
grass (as above)
plus
garden bed/s (not guaranteed to have a mowing edge, not guaranteed to contain plants and/or mulch)

landscaped low maintenance =
grass
plus
garden beds (containing token plants, not guaranteed to have a mowing edge and/or mulch)
plus
paved area

manicured low maintenance =
I’m still trying to figure that one out!

Paying someone to slap some turf on a large expanse and/or a slope and whack in some sleepers around the steepest part or the far corner and put in a few shrubs of inappropriate mature size might be low maintenance for the landlord but not for the tenant who has to live with it over the warmer months or for the purchaser who ends up ripping it out and replacing it.

EvanJames 10:47 am 20 Sep 11

johnboy said :

Wait until you’ve got some higher volume, with this sort of stuff you’ll be up to your nuts in lawyers making outrageous claims. Not all of those claims will be utterly vexatious. Good luck with that.

Yep. It’s a great initiative, and in the US there’s some very useful and active sites like that (I’ve used them!), but here in Australia we not only have no constitutional right to free speech, we actually have some very strong laws that militate against it.

And your first brush with a defamation laywer will leave you battered, sadder and wiser. Even if you’re in the right, fighting for that right, again and again, will cripple you.

The only website I’ve seen that has so-far managed to see off such assaults is Whirlpool. I don’t know how he does it, especially with the stated policy of posting up any legal approaches for all to read, but so far they’ve piloted those waters.

RentWiki 9:30 am 20 Sep 11

johnboy said :

You can burn up a lot of money on lawyers even when you’re in the right.

But good luck finding that out.

Onwards johnboy!

johnboy 8:25 am 20 Sep 11

You can burn up a lot of money on lawyers even when you’re in the right.

But good luck finding that out.

RentWiki 8:19 am 20 Sep 11

“Wait until you’ve got some higher volume, with this sort of stuff you’ll be up to your nuts in lawyers making outrageous claims. Not all of those claims will be utterly vexatious. Good luck with that.

You’d be surprised. The legal issues are far and few between as claims of defamation, slander etc come with the burden of PROOF on the claimant. Facts aren’t defamatory.

Besides, have a look at our posts so far, the forms are designed to create balance, a discussion rather than a witch hunt. The posts so far detail aspects that the tenants liked as well as any warnings about things to watch out for. These warnings are helpful for landlords who may not be getting accurate feedback from their agents. They’re also helpful for agents who have been trying to get maintenance issues sorted but can’t get traction with the owner.

There are LOTS of good reasons to create transparency in Australia’s rental market and not nearly enough to stop us launching http://www.RentWiki.com.au

johnboy 11:08 pm 19 Sep 11

RentWiki said :

Apologies – should have addressed our post to Luisa (rather than Ascarti42).

As an aside to Ed who commented at the bottom of Luisa’s post: lawyers have no part to play in the issue of a fair and transparent rental market. Rental reviews can be factual and balanced whereby there is no course of action to take against a poster. As with all online forums there is no room for illegal or antisocial behaviour – the aim is to be accurate and insightful so all parties can make informed decisions.

Wait until you’ve got some higher volume, with this sort of stuff you’ll be up to your nuts in lawyers making outrageous claims. Not all of those claims will be utterly vexatious. Good luck with that.

milkman 11:01 pm 19 Sep 11

RentWiki said :

Arescarti42, sorry to hear about your plight but frankly, join the club, then go to http://www.RentWiki.com.au
RentWiki reveals what others have to say about the properties on your inspection list!

There seems to be a huge disconnect in Australian property. It’s blatantly obvious that one man’s investment property is another man’s home, so why isn’t there transparency in our market to help all parties make informed decisions that meet their needs? Well we don’t know either but through http://www.RentWiki.com.au we’re trying to do something about it.

RentWiki is for:

* TENANTS who want to know what they’re really signing up for
* LANDLORDS who want reliable tenants and reliable managing agents
* managing AGENTS whose hands are sometimes tied
* INVESTORS who want the inside story on rental properties they’re considering

We’re new (about 12 days old as of this post) and we’re only as good a resource as the people who post their constructive reviews, tenants, landlords and agents alike. So when you visit, please contribute. Together we can create transparency and fair value in Australia’s rental market.

Happy house hunting!

Well done – I’m an investor and will definitely take a look.

RentWiki 8:17 pm 19 Sep 11

Apologies – should have addressed our post to Luisa (rather than Ascarti42).

As an aside to Ed who commented at the bottom of Luisa’s post: lawyers have no part to play in the issue of a fair and transparent rental market. Rental reviews can be factual and balanced whereby there is no course of action to take against a poster. As with all online forums there is no room for illegal or antisocial behaviour – the aim is to be accurate and insightful so all parties can make informed decisions.

RentWiki 8:08 pm 19 Sep 11

Arescarti42, sorry to hear about your plight but frankly, join the club, then go to http://www.RentWiki.com.au
RentWiki reveals what others have to say about the properties on your inspection list!

There seems to be a huge disconnect in Australian property. It’s blatantly obvious that one man’s investment property is another man’s home, so why isn’t there transparency in our market to help all parties make informed decisions that meet their needs? Well we don’t know either but through http://www.RentWiki.com.au we’re trying to do something about it.

RentWiki is for:

* TENANTS who want to know what they’re really signing up for
* LANDLORDS who want reliable tenants and reliable managing agents
* managing AGENTS whose hands are sometimes tied
* INVESTORS who want the inside story on rental properties they’re considering

We’re new (about 12 days old as of this post) and we’re only as good a resource as the people who post their constructive reviews, tenants, landlords and agents alike. So when you visit, please contribute. Together we can create transparency and fair value in Australia’s rental market.

Happy house hunting!

powerpuffpete 1:09 pm 19 Sep 11

Unfortunately given the demand at the moment I have heard a lot of cases where tenants are treated poorly or with disregard.
My ex had major problems renting through Independent. The owners were selling and there were frequent open house inspections. That was disruptive but not necessarily a breach of any agreement. However, the lack of notification multiple times was. It wasn’t fun coming back to see strangers in the apartment, knowing full well I’d had a lazy morning and left some undies on the bathroom floor.

http://www.tenantsact.org.au/

GBT 12:43 pm 19 Sep 11

And Landlord Insurance, if you choose to get it.

Watson 12:18 pm 19 Sep 11

Darkfalz said :

I never liked people who took a perfectly lovely block and put a little granny flat out the back for raising revenue (rather than for an actual granny to live in).

I lived in granny flats for years and I was so incredibly grateful for their existence as for me it was so much better than having to share a house. Even if the insulation was crap and they had a combined laundry and bathroom, and they were guaranteed to get flooded during extreme hail storms, I would have chosen that any time over a room in a renovated house. So I would argue that there is a market for places like that. But I do agree that it would be better if they wouldn’t charge for them as if the description in the ad was true!

I don’t agree that you have to raise the rent to cover tenants not looking after the place. There are already provisions for that and it is called ‘bond’.

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