A studio for rent with a key feature missing underpins the "desperate" state of the Australian rental housing system. That's the assessment from NSW's tenants' union after the $290-per-week property shocked renters with its eye-catching attempt at a kitchen.
In a corner of the room, steps from the bed, a shelving unit can be seen with a microwave on top and kettle, plates and other kitchenware on the shelves below. As if that wasn't strange enough, the fridge is located in the bathroom, directly opposite the toilet.
"It really shows how hard things are at the moment for renters when this is something that can be advertised as a home for someone," Jemima Mowbray, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the Tenants Union of NSW, told Yahoo News Australia of the studio in western Sydney. "I don't think anybody chooses to rent a property like this, where they don't have the option of creating a meal for themselves in a healthy and safe way, but I think some renters may feel forced and may actually look at this as an option for them."
Mowbray says the listing reveals a stark truth about the market. "What this says to us is that the rental system at the moment is such that landlords are feeling comfortable putting this up as a listing with the expectation that they'll have people applying for a property like this," she explained. "And I think some renters are feeling desperate."
Renters outraged by listing
While the landlord describes the North Richmond property on Facebook Marketplace as a "large studio with new bathroom", a renter who shared the post on Reddit was horrified. "Does this qualify as a kitchen?" he wrote alongside a photo of the shelving unit. "Everyone talking about adverts listing microwaves with a cabinet and sink as a 'kitchen'. This takes the cake."
"It does not have a kitchen," another user responded, while someone else argued it was false advertising to list the room as a studio apartment: "This shouldn't be advertised as a studio. It's more like someone renting out a room or a portion of the property, but denying you access to the common areas and the actual kitchen of the property."
Is it even legal?
While rental properties must meet "basic minimum standards" under the Residential Tenancies Act, Mowbray said things get a little "tricky" because they cover kitchens. "I think there's an assumption that there's going to be, in a principal place of residence in a home, a way for somebody to be able to prepare food and to do that in a healthy way, but it's not spelled out in the act," she said, adding that local government regulations may also come into play.
However, there might be a way to fight back if a property only has hot running water in the bathroom, meaning there's no safe and hygienic way to prepare food. "If you were able to establish, 'actually I can't live here because I'm not able to, in a healthy way, make a meal for myself, which is essential for living', then you might be able to establish with the tribunal that it isn't fit for habitation," Mowbray explained. "I think in a lot of ways you would be able to make a case where a home without an adequate kitchen is really not liveable."
But that would require a tenant standing up for themselves and their rights, and Mowbray isn't sure anyone would do that in this climate. "I think at the moment our rental housing system is in such crisis that renters really don't feel like they can press for that sort of standard in too many situations, and they feel like they would be putting their housing at risk if they were to try to assert that right," she said.
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