The roll of the dice

• Megan Neal turned her renting horrors into an entertaining card game. Photo by Steve Grant.

A YOUNG renter has turned her experiences of being screwed by stingy landlords into an entertaining card game highlighting WA’s unfair tenancy laws.

Megan Neal (24) has been criticised by landlords for leaving breakfast crumbs on the bench in an otherwise spotless house or owning too many things, while she was made sick because one owner wouldn’t fix a mouldy house.

But like many other renters she was scared to speak up in case she was evicted or had her rent increased.

After attending a conference run by Tenancy WA last year and discovering she wasn’t alone, Ms Neal decided she wanted to help others understand what it was like at the pointy end of the renting game.

“It’s really hard to share that experience if you haven’t lived it,” Ms Neal said.

In Rent: The Card Game, players receive “keys” to rent a house and pay the bills, which the inventor said was to show that having a home was more than just having cash to the rent and included good health and mental wellbeing.

After choosing a home with a range of options such as insulation or electric appliances, players have to negotiate their way through unfair requests from the landlord and endless bills.

Fall behind on the rent and you’re suddenly accruing crisis points; three of those and you’re on the street – if the landlord hasn’t summarily kicked you out for no reason. It’s surprisingly easy.

Ms Neal’s game is being showcased as part of Homelessness Week by the Making Renting Fair Alliance.

The alliance is a collaboration between community organisations and renters calling for an overhaul of WA’s tenancy laws.

Unfair evictions

Alliance co-ordinator Rachel Pemberton, a Fremantle councillor, said they’re calling for changes such as more long-term leases, banning unfair evictions and giving renters the right to make minor alterations like putting in a picture hook, a towel rail or even a vegie patch.

Cr Pemberton said they’d tagged the Make Renting Fair campaign to Homelessness Week to highlight how the tenancy laws could actually be contributing to the problem.

Ms Neal and fellow Tenancy Action Group WA campaign co-ordinator Trish Owen will be holding games of Rent at The Nook at the WA State Library on Francis Street on Wednesday August 7 from 11.30am-1.30pm. With other TAGWA members they’ll be sharing personal insights (and tips) about the rental market. For a free game go to rent_the_card_game.eventbrite.com.au or email info@makerentingfailwa.org.au

by STEVE GRANT

2 responses to “The roll of the dice

  1. What nonsense, complaints over crumbs. At 24 what clue would she have in understanding the rental market and what landlords ave to go through. The laws are very strong as it is and fair for both parties.
    Also you might want to point out Tenancy WA was devised by Fremantle Greens candidate Kate Davis as an attack on mum & dad investors who ran in the previous Federal election in 2016.
    Let’s not play games with good peoples lives and show some balanced reporting!
    Fremantle Greens choose lawyer | The West Australian
    https://thewest.com.au/news/australia/fremantle-greens-choose-lawyer-ng-ya-100440

  2. https://heraldonlinejournal.com/2019/08/16/developer-hell/comment-page-1/#comment-86082

    Game over
    THIS is not a game (“The roll of the dice”, Herald, August 3, 2019).
    Oh, to be 24 again sitting in the sunshine with my rose-coloured glasses, sipping chai lattes with my favourite local city ward councillor, chalking up the virtuous wins with plastic bags and helium balloons…ziieep…scratch that record.
    Enter the game of mid-40s mum and dad landlords.
    After a week of working jobs and running children to school, we sit at the kitchen table reading the Herald, whilst looking at the mounting bills (two of each) – mortgage payments, interest on loans, council rates, water rates, fire services levy, insurance, property maintenance and other general bills.
    All while we reflect on a rental property that was recently trashed, leaving behind not only a mess to clean up that insurance does not cover, but unpaid rent and a water account which we as landlords are now obliged to pay on the tenants behalf.
    In this game, after the four weeks rent-in-advance period and the tenant stops paying us as landlords, roll the dice again.
    As our stress mounts and mental health declines we try to work with the tenant to pay the outstanding rent so we can meet the previously mentioned obligations to the bank and various agencies.
    There is no respite for landlords, you must pay these obligations to continue the game or face repossession and end on the street.
    Under the WA Residential Tenancies Act we must submit the mandatory forms to give notice of a breach for failure to pay rent or inspect the property.
    A Form 21 which can take up to another 30 days of no rent before an application can be made to the Magistrates court to terminate the tenancy and seek possession of your property.
    After payment of another fee it can take another several weeks for a court date to be set, along with unpaid time off work to attend the hearing.
    Roll the dice again and you are at court making sure all your paperwork is inline so the case is not thrown out.
    Surprising that the dedicated tenancy court is packed with real-estate agents being paid $150 an hour to represent the landlords and hoping for a judgment to award costs, outstanding rent and damages.
    If you are lucky enough to have your cards in a row and be awarded the judgement in your favour, you are then tasked with paying $600 for a bailiff/sheriff to help evict your violent meth-affected tenants and a locksmith to change all the locks.
    Roll again and the sheriff gives warning before making entrance to the house and surprise, they have absconded leaving behind a feral stinking mess to clean up.
    Roll the dice again and you are faced with picking up the card to take expensive civil action to pursue them for costs, or cut your losses, suck it up and start the game all over again.
    So it seems the current WA Residential Tenancy Act has many protections for the tenants and very little for the owner, or at least that can be prosecuted by the courts.
    Ironically, if a landlord contravene the Act you are subjected to thousands of dollars in enforceable fines.
    The tenant does not have to take civil action as they are covered under the Act by the government.
    As for our city ward councillor, one would think they should be supporting the very mum and dad ratepayers who support the city financially rather than playing games with their retirement nest eggs.

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