Move Your Wheelie Bin Over, Or Else

February 17, 2017

Picture: Hotel R

As a long term professional renter, finding a voice about your communal living spaces is almost impossible. Between over busy property managers and ageing body corporate secretaries, when will the professional renters get a vote and a voice in the places they call home?

Finding rental housing is a cutthroat game. References, online applications, mid-week viewings – it’s stressful. You finally sign that contract, hand over your bond money and then breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve found yourself a home. You connect your electricity, find your wheelie bin, squish in your ill-fitting furniture that was perfect for your old flat, connect your Netflix account and settle to watch your first series in your brand new apartment. That’s when you hear it. The whoosh of a note shoved under your door.  It seems you’ve put your wheelie bin ten centimetres past your designated spot. The note suggests you move it and indicates your property manager will be contacted if it happens again.  

As a much younger and irresponsible student, I had my fair share of notes in my mailboxes about noise, too many people coming and going and too many cars in the visitors’ car parks. As an adult, one with a real job, I thought the notes would stop. I thought that I would become part of a larger family that organised Christmas drinks in our communal driveway and played cricket on national holidays. It turns out I was wrong.

There are still notes in my mailbox that outline the body corporate bylaws some unsuspecting tenant broke this week. There are dirty looks while drinking out of a plastic straw cup in the pool, “…that’s not alcohol I hope.”  And it’s not.  It’s red cordial with ice in it but still, I stare at my feet with the overwhelming feeling that I am about to be sent to my room by an elderly-stranger.  

I am a renter. I am not ashamed to admit it and I rent with purposeful intent. The great Australian dream of owning your own home has long since gone by the wayside for hundreds even thousands of Brisbane’s young-ish professionals. House prices are soaring in even the less-than-desirable suburbs and the pipe dream of home ownership seems firmly in the grasp of those with double incomes and a self-resignation to travel to work.  

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, since 2012 more than thirty percent of the population rent. That’s one in three. One in three people in this country were born overseas, are obese or wear mismatched socks. Ok that last one may not be true, but the rest are absolutely accurate and sourced from only the most reliable sources on google. One in three Australians are living, raising their families and spending Christmases in houses that are not their own.  And they will NEVER own their own homes.

As a renter, I have very little cause to contact my property manager. My rent is paid on time, I live on my own, my house is tidy and I promise that I’ve only ever used 3M removable hooks on my walls. But as a renter my basic right to turn my unit into a home is often kyboshed by none other than the Gestapo of communal living, the Body Corporate.

In Queensland, the only organisation that protects renters is the Residential Tenancy Authority (RTA). The RTA is sworn with the heavy and unenviable job of providing legal structure for tenancies that are fair for landlords and tenants. Away from the legal contracts, it is left to Body Corporates and Real Estate agencies to manage the day to day lives of tenants and mitigate their disputes.

With one third of the population renters I refuse to believe that all renters are irresponsible uni students, unemployed layabouts or house squatters. People are renting in Brisbane because of an oversaturated communal housing market and the unaffordability of house prices in the greater Brisbane area.

Professional, long term renters are missing a voice in their own homes. The modern face of Brisbane real estate is different from that of renters past. Rising house prices and Brisbane’s man-drought have left me with a single income and a bank account too empty to fund a house deposit. Buying my way onto a body corporate is almost impossible.

My plight, and that of all professional renters, is left firmly in the hands of real estate companies and the eternal search for a community-minded Body Corporate that loves their long-term renters. There is no legal responsibility for a Body Corporate to involve renting tenants in their committees but with a large proportion of Brisbane under construction and at the helm of non-local investors, the long term renters of Brisbane will have access to far less of a voice.

I can only wish that there was a way for the Body Corporate to meet me properly. To force them to understand that I am a good person. I am not a temporary vagrant passing through with the intent to upset the wheelie bin roster.  I choose to rent and live in the community in which my unit happens to be situated. A purple straw cup is not the sign of a teenage hoodlum.

By Anna Bauer

Anna is a full time secondary teacher, a part-time writer and an overly giddy marriage celebrant.  She is a singleton, long term renter, full time shopper and enthusiastic coffee drinker.  Anna spends her time writing the first chapters of novels she has never finished and lives in hope that one day one will finish itself.  She loves her job working with young adolescents and often finds that they keep her pop culture trivia up to date and her modern language skills constantly evolving.

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