Agent's shocking seven-word response after student struggles to pay $300 rent rise

The Adelaide home is without working heating or cooling, has poor plumbing and faulty lighting.

A South Australian university student who says she shivered through winter at her rundown Adelaide rental after her landlord refused to address even the most basic of maintenance requests, has been asked to fork out an additional $300 per week to stay at the property.

The tenant was even more taken aback when her agency allegedly told her to "just move back in with your parents" when revealing she simply couldn't afford the rise.

May Higgins, 21, lives in a shared home in Kilburn, in the city's inner-north, and says she's been given just days to accept a rent increase from $500 per week to the new price of $800, split across her three housemates.

A part-time worker while studying teaching, Ms Higgins told Yahoo News Australia that she, along with her flatmates, had attempted on multiple occasions to have the property maintained — which currently is without a working air conditioner and dishwasher, has a broken front gate, poor plumbing and faulty lighting. But "literally nothing at all" has been done.

May Higgins is pictured alongside her kitchen in Kilburn, SA.
Uni student May Higgins says the rent on the Adelaide home she shares with three others increased by $300pw despite its dilapidated state. Source: Facebook

Property neglected for months

Though she said she has had "no communication whatsoever" with her landlord personally, Ms Higgins claims she'd pleaded with her agency to have the home's problems looked at repeatedly over the year spent living there.

When disclosed that she would likely have to move if the rent was increased substantially, the student claims her agency simply told her to "just move back in with your parents".

"Kilburn is a very low socioeconomic area. So the median house price for a four bedroom in the area is about $400 per week, at the last time I checked, which is when we heard about the rent increase," she said.

"Right before our lease renewed — which was at the start of August — they sent us an email saying they were increasing the rent to $800, and that if we were unhappy with that price, that, unfortunately, they wouldn't be able to renew our lease, because that's what the landlord was wanting.

"So it was very blunt, and straightforward, and we really didn't have much room to negotiate or anything.

"And when I've looked into it, with South Australian renting laws, there's no limit on how much the rent can be increased by and 'no cause' evictions are still a thing. So I looked up thinking like, 'oh, surely they can't just kick us out'. But they can. With no reason. So a very, very tough spot."

'No cause' evictions legal in South Australia

In South Australia, rent can be raised if at least 60 days' written notice is given and "the increase starts at least 12 months after the agreement began". Currently, "no cause evictions" remain legal in the state, though the government has proposed changes to the these laws, which are being deliberated.

Kilburn, in Adelaide's inner-north. Source: Google Maps.
Kilburn, in Adelaide's inner-north. Source: Google Maps.

Though Ms Higgins maintains the property is not worth $800 per week in its current state, she says she believes it's possible that somebody would pay that much due to the shortage of rental properties.

"At the moment, I think that a lot of people are just paying whatever rent is put up by," she said.

"Just because of the state of things. It's a relatively new house, like it was built in the last 10 to 15 years. And I think that if they asked for that increase, because it's the time that it is, people would probably take it.

The 21-year-old said the unprecedented demand for rentals right now is "why we didn't want to argue" because she had "no doubt that they would just kick us out and re-list" at the new asking price.

"Pretty much anytime you put in a maintenance request for anything, it takes upwards of six months, or it gets completely ignored,"Ms Higgins said.

"I was forced to buy an electric blanket. One of my housemates had like a fan heater — that's just more electricity costs, more bills, when we have to provide our own heating, rather than just using the duct, which we're paying for. Because yeah, it was either not working in the rooms or just blowing out dust because it needs to be serviced, which again, has been ignored."

The real estate agency holds inspections every three months, but Ms Higgins says she doesn't understand why none of the tenants' requests are ever actioned.

'Just move in with your parents'

"We have inspections once every three months, like religiously they'll come around, and they'll say they will pass on requests and things like that to the landlord. But we never hear anything and they don't respond."

Ineligible for government rent assistance, Ms Higgins says she faces the very real possibility of homelessness if being forcibly removed from her home.

"It's incredibly anxiety-inducing. And just the thought of, if it rent continues to increase, that's really stressful — trying to find anywhere else," she said.

"Because I went through a period of homelessness last year. Where I had a really terrible experience with a previous house, I was homeless and living like pretty much with my friends, because I couldn't find anywhere to live.

"Real estate agents — they've told me directly: 'You should just be living with your parents at this age'."

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