Queer Literary Salon - host Benjamin Law,

Benjamin Law. Photo: Miranda Tay

 

Once I block out the flea infestation and the mushrooms growing in the shower, I have nothing but fond memories of my first rental: a 50-year-old Brisbane Queenslander. Architecturally, the place was deranged. It had started as a three-bedroom home but at some point, someone had slapped on a kitchen and internal bathroom in an ad-hoc, devil-may-care fashion. But our landlord kept the rent low and everyone was happy.

Cut to a decade later and I'm still renting - albeit in a different city and paying much more. Some of you may be appalled. "But you are in your 30s! Surely, you must be considering buying?" Yeah, no. Apartments in my area sell at price points that cartoon villains like to cry out while evilly fluttering their fingertips. ("ONE MILLLLLION DOLLARS!") Some of you might be outraged. "You are a walking case study of a generation locked out of the property market and screwed over by baby-boomer privilege." You're preaching to the choir.

But honestly, I don't mind renting. I get to live in the inner-city at an affordable rate while avoiding the anguish that comes with auctions, body corporates and fluctuating interest rates. The only thing that gets me down? Insane rent increases. One Sydney-based friend has moved three times in three years, because her rent shot up 30 per cent with each renewal. In Victoria, landlords can push up the rent every six months with no limit.

If you think this should be illegal, it is - in other countries. In Germany, rent increases are capped at 20 per cent every three years. Landlords who want tenants to move out must give notice proportionate to the time tenants have lived there. As nearly a quarter of all Australian households are rentals, and this figure is set to rise, we need to think hard about what constitutes fairness for tenants. Meanwhile, my lease is up for renewal, and I have one message for my landlord: "Have I told you lately that I love you?"