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.
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.]