The joys of renting

I’m a happy and house proud renter, most of the time.

You’ll never see at Today Tonight special about ‘horror tenants’ featuring me – well, actually I hope you never see any Today Tonight or A Current Affair stories, because those shows are utterly bogus advertorials and fear mongering outlets, masquerading as ‘current affairs’ shows. I call bullshit on those. Utter bullshit… but, that’s not what I want to talk about today, dear reader.

I’ve been renting since I was about 19, so I’ve had my fair share of successes and abject failures. The very first place I moved into was a house in Burwood, where I lived with two young gents who hailed from Wangaratta (that’s smack bang in the middle-ish of country Victoria for those unfamiliar with local geography). I found their ad for a third roomie via a Uniting Church service – it wasn’t a website, I had to call them up – this was back in the dark ages before the internet, when people had record players and used pay phones.

So, on my first day there, the lads took me out to the low side fence and shared with me the secret to living together, happily ever after. I can’t even remember their names, so let’s call them Billy Bob and Jimmy John shall we. “See that?” queried Jimmy John, pointing to the footpath, “that’s Burwood”. Ah! Genius. “But see this?”, drawled Billy Bob, pointing to our scruffy lawn “This is Wang”. Apparently we were living on the edge of some kind of space-time-geographic continuum where suburban Melbourne merged with country Victoria, by sheer force of will.

I didn’t live there for long. All I really remember is we ate a lot of snags, and Jimmy John used to ride his bicycle from Burwood to the Mornington Peninsula and back every Saturday morning, then crack open a beer upon his arrival home and lay sweaty and spent on the couch for a while.

And that house in Burwang (?) is where I discovered that Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue were actually THE SAME PERSON. I bought the single of ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ and when I popped it on the record player, the voice that came out was dead set Rick. I had it on the wrong speed and took great joy in playing it at both speeds for visitors – Rick / Kylie / Rick / Kylie. Mind blowing stuff.

Oh, record players are old fashioned machines where you put a big kind of vinyl CD on a turntable and then you pop the needle carefully on the outside of the first groove and the record spins right round baby, right round. If that’s not crystal clear, then feel free to hit up Google!

So I ventured into renting in Burwang, and since then I have lived in Wheelers Hill and Mulgrave and Highett and Mordialloc. I have lived in St Kilda and Elsternwick, in Blackburn and Blackburn North. Heck, I lived in so many places in the first two years of being free of the familial nest, that I probably couldn’t recount them all in order if I was offered $10,000. Way to go, memory!

I have lived with families, with friends, with siblings, with married peeps and singletons. I went back home for a few stints early on, and I really enjoyed making wherever I was a home. I don’t need to be shackled with massive debt to create a home. I’m a nester.

There was a short period where I moved in with a girl I didn’t really know, who had decided to quit her job and study full time. To pay her hefty Lilydale mega-house mortgage, she took in a couple of renters.

Big mistake. Huge.

She did NOT want to share her home, and I think I was there for less than a month. I committed unforgivable sins like moving blankets from one shelf to another in the linen press, and I didn’t worship her small yappy dog sufficiently (that’s never going to happen pet lovers – deal with it).

For the past 10 years or so I’ve lived in a rickety weatherboard house in the south-east suburbs of Melbourne. I moved there and shared with someone from uni for the first few years. It was mostly fine, but there were moments that I felt a bit Single White Female-d upon, with lots of hanging around at the doorway when I had my boyfriend over, or what I felt was overstepping the bounds of sharing a house with someone. Here’s a tip – if we’re not actually close friends, and you come and ask me for a hug when you’re having a crap day but being very uncommunicative about it, and it makes me feel uncomfortable, I might just say no.

I’m a girl that likes my space! And somewhere along the line, I learned to say no with ease. Oops!

Soon enough, she moved out and I took the opportunity to move from the bigger place we shared to the little front unit. It was the easiest move of all time, thanks to the connecting door between the two units. (I’ll have to write a whole other post about the home’s dodgy history, and the number of doors. Crazy stuff.)

The house has changed hands since I moved there, and the new owner is a real novice at being a landlord. They tried to crank up the rent by hundreds and hundreds of dollars on me, before he even legally owned the property. I used that handy word again… no. That’s illegal fella. Good try.

He mustn’t have bothered looking too carefully when he bought it, because the few times he’s been over he often remarks that it doesn’t look familiar or he doesn’t remember that it’s a one bedroom place. It’s what you’d kindly call a ‘character’ property, and being weatherboard, it is really starting to show the years. He seems baffled by the notion that he should take responsibility for any maintenance issues. Guess what pal? That’s part of the deal with property investing. Your tenants pay your mortgage, and you maintain our homes (your investment). Capiche?

Ten months ago I mentioned that the trellis fence between my unit and the back unit was falling over. It is old and busted and needs replacing. TEN MONTHS AGO. I have spoken to the agent in person about this, he’s seen the state of the fence, he’s taken photographs of it and he craftily ignored my emails for most of 2014. So I emailed him again recently. I used CAPITAL LETTERS.

Today I got a response from the agent asking me if I could measure up the fence, to save him having to come over and do it himself.

Um, hello, aren’t you getting a percentage of the rent to, what do you call it, manage the listing for the owner? “BYO measuring tape bucko”, I thought, and I politely replied to his email, and used that oh so easy to say word, no.

No, I will not do your job, and the landlord’s job for you.

No, I will not cower and just ‘suck it up’ because I’m ‘just renting’.

This is my home. I pay for it. I live in it. I take care of it and make it look cosy and welcoming.

I’m not measuring your busted fence. Maybe I should give Today Tonight a call….

But, the important part is, even with this frustrations of a not very switched on landlord, I love my home.

I’ve had some amazing neighbours here in wobbly weatherboard land. I’ve made friends and known great kindness here. I’ve had people over to celebrate big milestones – I’ve cooked engagement meals and met some of my girlfriends’ future husbands here. I’ve watched favourite TV shows and baked for people in this weatherboard house. This very blog started in my living room. I couldn’t love it more if it was mine on paper.

This ol’ house may have a fence that’s falling down (and rotting gutters, and no insulation, and creaky floors, and seriously dodgy leaky walls), but she’s strong in what homes are really made of – warmth, welcome, and a refuge at the end of the day.

Yours in real estate heaven,

Annette x

Here’s my busted fence, the neighbour’s unkempt jasmine is doing a mighty fine job of both breaking and holding it up, don’t you think?

2015-01-06 09.59.05

 

16 thoughts on “The joys of renting

  1. I rented quite a bit with family, friends, myself until I brought my unit when I was 22/23. I couldn’t rent now-too used to doing my own thing. Goodluck with your landlord!

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  2. Love love love! You are a strong and generous woman. You saying NO helps me to say NO. I’m so amazed that the year we lived together with Tim & Sue didn’t get mentioned here. Weren’t we catering, Timmy studying etc, etc ….. Hot house, irritating kitchen, terrible garden and bathroom. We are all so glad we are all still friends especially seeing one is my husband and the other my sister.

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    • That was a good time Krissy! That bungalow though, and the smalls under a bowl incident – classic!!
      I loved living with you. You did rate a mention though – siblings, married peeps, singletons.
      That covers you, Sueby & Tidy Bin Liner.
      Keep saying NO, it frees you up to say YES to what you really want.

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  3. Loved visiting you at your place (oh so long ago!). Quirky?sure! Cosy? Yep! What makes it a home? The person who lives in it. No amount of money can buy that!

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  4. I love that you’ve made this such a special home. I’ve lived in oh so many rentals. Some good, some odd (upstairs landlord that steals your underwear from the line, anyone?), some rotten (our last place had window frames so rotten the glass cracked, and grass growing INSIDE the house. Ah, fun times.

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    • Sounds like a wild ride! I can see daylight through a gap in the bathroom wall, and when I stand in my front doorway, looking out to the carport’s brick wall I can see daylight through that too!! There’s an occasional bit of vine that comes up through the brick wall in my bedroom! Close to nature

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  5. Oh this post made me laugh and think… “yes you are describing me here”!! Oh the joys of renting.. and we are still renting…. I worked out just now with reading your post that I have rented/moved house 16 times in the last 20 something years and now we are in the process of moving and renting again… albeit in a foreign country (will tell you how we find these landlords).
    I have had some real crap landlords but I can honestly say that I have had three out of that lot that have become long held friends – they were excellent landlords and could not do enough in terms of making sure things were taken care of and to make sure I felt secure where I was living. The others have been a mixed bag….the ones that lived next door and he would go through my rubbish… sheez…..another time I lived below in a granny flat to my landlord and he would let himself in when I wasn’t there until I called him out on it (needless to say I moved out pronto!.. he was creepy). Or the landlord that would literally let the stairs (there were 65 of them in hilly wet Wellington) get so slimy and slippery that they were a death trap…..after asking and asking for months for him to clean them…. he just couldn’t be bothered… I thought enough is enough and I phoned him at his home and shamed him into it saying “how would he like to live with revolting steps like this” etc etc… “that he expected me to keep the house pristine (which we did) but he didn’t see that he needed to keep his side of the bargain”! The steps where cleaned the next weekend! It does like you say teach you so say “NO” load and clear…. good for you sticking to your guns Annette…. I like how you told the Agent they could measure the fence – You don’t work for them. Great post. LOVED IT!

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  6. Hello Annette, you write so well! Insights into the rental house/home life are very helpful to “newbies” like us. We’ve sold our place in Sydney & are renting in “seachange” mode on Central Coast. when we had initial problems getting hot water heater to connect to gas bottles, the landlord took it upon herself to “save the day” & failed… We had no hot water for 3 days because “she” insisted she knew what to do. She wouldn’t get a plumber in. Hub took one look at it- done. Fixed. Do you think they decide those who rent don’t “need” mod cons like hot water, fence repaired? It’s a two-tiered lifestyle – home owning/home renting isnt it? You sound like you are living somewhere that’s home & you have people around you who care too. That’s more important than anything… Love the coat hangers! Denyse

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    • Hey Denyse, thank you so much. I love words, always have.
      Renting really suits me, and 90% of the time it’s a breeze – but it can be a minefield if you get a clueless/lazy landlord or agent. There’s definitely still that mindset you mention. I find knowing your rights as a tenant is very helpful – it allows you to push back with authority. That’s worked for me.
      Good luck with your change of lifestyle, and you’re so right, whether it is rented or owned, creating a home and having supportive friends around is what makes life special.
      Really appreciate you popping in to comment. I live for comments!!

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  7. We have an investment property (that we’ve owned for about 5 years now) with a brilliant tenant. We hear from her maybe twice a year at most, and when we do, my husband is round there in a snap to sort out any issues. I appreciate the fact that she treats the house as her home and wants to stay there “forever” (her word) and I consider us so very lucky that we don’t have to have an agent acting as a middle man – we can sort everything out ourselves. Thank goodness for tenants like her and you. x

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