Think of the landlords

Some people honestly just don’t care. This from the website of TICA – the Tenancy Information Centre Australasia.

Tenants do not deserve the right to impose their habits on innocent landlords by claiming that housing is a human right.

The framers of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights might have a point to make about that:

Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(My emphasis.)

Of course, TICA is trying to justify their service. Landlords can now choose to be automatically notified when their tenants sign another tenancy agreement (with another landlord). Thus, the original landlord knows when their tenants are about to move out.

TICA’s managing director Philip Nounnis justifies it like this:

The service has been designed to cater for that small section of the marketplace that does the dreaded midnight skip and things like that.

They break their existing agreement. They apply to another property. They don’t tell the new agent who they were previously renting through and they get approved without the new agent knowing how much money they previously owe.

This is the general excuse for the existence of TICA’s enormous tenant database, but it doesn’t really cover this new service. The new service has nothing to do with scrutinising potential tenants – it’s about what happens when existing tenants consider moving out. It’s the old landlord that gets notified, not the new one. It’s difficult to see what possible legitimate use this could have.

As Chris Martin of the NSW Tenants Union points out, retaliation is the name of the game. The old landlord might decide not to carry out necessary repairs, or to try to scuttle the new lease agreement by contacting the other, prospective landlord.

This seems to be fundamentally about further entrenching the power relationship between landlords and tenants. TICA is selling other people’s information, benefitting one group by putting another at further disadvantage.

It’s hard to argue that TICA has an especially balanced perspective, when further up the web page there’s this:

We take this opportunity to advise that the TICA systems and its databases are only designed to impact on tenants who believe they have the right to create financial hardship on landlords whose only involvement in the rental arena is to offer affordable accommodation.

Financial hardship? Good grief – we’re talking about people who own at least two houses vs people who don’t own any. Which landlords, exactly, are concerned “only” with offering affordable accommodation? The entire purpose of putting up a property for rent is to make money, and that money is made from those less well off. This is nobody’s fault in particular – just the inevitable result of inevitable wealth imbalances. However, to speak of financial hardship as it applies to people with more wealth is a little, well, rich.

Update (2010-12-13, 2012-06-16): fixed a broken link.


“Thief!” yelped Professor Geoff West as I stampeded past him in the stairwell of the New Technologies building armed with a deck chair and a backpack stuffed with household cleaning equipment.

“It’s mine!” I yelped back. Indeed, I had been carrying the chair since I left my new home in Manning half an hour beforehand, riding one-handed on my bike and occasionally no-handed as I signalled my way through the light morning backstreet traffic. Nobody else had commented on the chair up until that point.

“Why do you have a chair?” Geoff asked, shattering this conspiratorial code of silence.

I thought about this for a moment.

“It’s complicated,” I managed.

It wasn’t that complicated, I later admitted to myself. I had a bag full of household cleaning equipment because my previous property manager, wielding the considerable insight one is gifted with in such an occupation, had decided that dusty skirting boards and a box of a few items present in the Rivervale flat from before I moved in constituted sufficient excuse to threaten my bond money, if I didn’t immediately clean it all away. She’d made a good go of being extremely distressed about all this on the phone the day before. I had a deck chair ostensibly so I could clean the light fittings while I was at it, but mostly it was so I could extract a small measure of revenge by stealing the power-saving light bulbs.

After all, they were my bulbs, and I’d replace them with functioning incandescent bulbs from the aforementioned box of what the property manager had, with much distress, termed “rubbish”. There were also several small air fresheners in that box, I realised on the bus, in between wondering whether my chair truly deserved the seat it was effectively occupying. Excellent. I’d steal them too.

My machinations eventually fell apart, however, when a representative of the dark forces of property management arrived to conduct a property condition report before I was even half done machete-ing my way through the skirting board dust. This was the same person who had handed me the keys to the flat, though probably not the one who phoned me up. One can scarcely imagine how the remaining catacombs of dust could have escaped such a report, given the length of time she spent in (I assume) studious analysis of the six otherwise empty rooms. Yet, if they didn’t, theoretically the next tenant would bear no responsibility for removing them.

In any case, I probably wasn’t going to be stealing anything in her presence, and her mind powers somehow erased all motivation I possessed for doing so at all. I even let the smoke detector stay, even though I could quite legitimately have nicked that if nothing else. Oh well, the best laid plans…