The perils of sharehouse life in Melbourne

There is a lot of debate going on about the state of housing and rentals in Australia lately.

Anyone who didn’t grow up with parents rich enough to buy them a house, or who didn’t choose to live in their parents basement living off Maggi noodles to save all their money for a deposit has had to deal with the share houses of Melbourne at some stage during their adult life. Strap yourself in, it’s time for a rant.

First of all, it’s treated like something akin to a job application just to have the honour, nay, the privilege, of living in the esteemed residence that they are lowering themselves to offer to you. You’ll have no chance unless you grovel like some sort of peasant. Write a written application, show them bank statements, 2 references, and maybe even offer above the advertised rate. Be dressed in a suit of course, on your day off, as you make yourself known at the open day and brown nose the 17 year old real estate agent who is working so hard for his money by standing there looking down his nose at you, the peasant.

Or even worse, if it’s some sort of ‘private’ arrangement found through Gumtree, you’ll probably have to ‘agree’ to strange and illegal terms. More on that later.

Next, the quality. Most landlords in Australia have no respect for their tenants, that’s (almost) understandable. They know they can be dickheads and you can’t really do much about it because you have to live *somewhere*. But they seem to also have no respect for their own property either. Most share houses I’ve lived in, despite commanding a relatively premium price, have been little more than falling apart shacks. Cracked walls, leaking roofs, faulty wiring. Do they not realise that they’re going to have to spend money anyway at some stage, and why not do it now rather than when the problem is much more dangerous and expensive to fix, or after it has killed someone? In my current house, one of the kitchen power outlets destroyed anything that was plugged into it. The landlord/agent’s response? “You’re probably just using low quality appliances, try plugging something else in to see if that blows up as well.” Yes, really! They didn’t just, you know, get in an electrician to repair it before something much worse happened than a $50 microwave making crackling noises before going bang!

Back to the type of people that landlords can be….. I don’t know if it’s ‘just’ power tripping, or more advanced mental illnesses at work. But on the occasions where I’ve entered into some private arrangement via Gumtree, it’s been even worse than the usual clusterf– of agent rentals.

One in Murrumbeena had a rental ‘contract’ (a loose term as it surely can’t have been legally enforceable) with a whole lot of clauses like ‘you cannot have any visitors after 9pm, if you do the lease can be terminated immediately’. The landlady named Amany lived in the back part of the house. There was no common/lounge room, and barely a window in that dungeon. There was a roster for when you were allowed to take a shower. There was a surveillance camera in the kitchen. And not just a decoy. If someone left a plate unwashed, or any other punishable offence, everyone in the house would suddenly receive a passive aggressive text message about it! Needless to say, I left that place rather swiftly when further insanity of the landlady came to light.

It’s not only that madhouse which had cameras either. One of my mates in Ballarat found several around his house, including in the sleeping area. Creepy, if not also extremely illegal!

Then, even if the landlord or real estate agent is a reasonable human being, the housemates can vary wildly. In Melbourne you definitely get some great, friendly, normal people who are students, young professionals, even older workers. Even if they’re vegans, hipsters, whatever.

But the rest… if only there was a database where could review them.

At the above camera house, there was one room that always had an Indian girl who never spoke to anyone and hid in her room. I’m not a scary person, I promise. Another house in Clayton, the other roomies were all Indians, and the house was utterly filthy. The sink was stacked similar to this:

It’s a battle of will, who will buckle first and clean up everyone else’s mess, or will you just keep peeling out 1 plate every time you need to eat, and hosing it down with acid in order to destroy the festering organisms harboured within?