A tenant says she was left crying in her cupboard after an "irate" handyman revealed himself as her landlord during an argument about the property's backyard.
Kate Ritchie shared a series of videos to her TikTok account, explaining how her landlord allegedly pretended to be a tradie to check in on the property without her knowledge.
Ms Ritchie says she was informed by her real estate agent that a handyman would visit her Melbourne-based rental after the area had experienced heavy rain fall. Thinking it was perfectly reasonable, she agreed and accommodated the gentleman when he arrived.
However she quickly noticed something was off with the "handyman" as he paced the backyard visibly frustrated by its state after the weather. He also continued to leave the doors wide open despite the tenant asking him several times to be mindful of her pets.
She says an argument broke out between the pair, with the man raising his voice to the "confused" tenant.
"Why is this handyman, a contractor essentially, yelling at me for the state of my backyard?" she wondered out loud in the video.
When Ms Ritchie questioned the man with a similar sentiment, she claims he revealed his true identify and explained that he was in fact the owner of the property.
When Ms Ritchie phoned her real estate agent for clarification, who apparently admitted they were aware of the situation.
Tenants rights being compromised
Tenants' Union CEO Leo Patterson Ross told Yahoo News Australia that Australian landlords are entitled to four inspections per year, however, gaining access to carry out "surreptitious inspections" beyond these viewings is a breach to a tenant's rights.
"Tenants are granted the right to reasonable peace, comfort, privacy, and having a person deceive you to gain access is likely a breach," Mr Patterson Ross said.
The real estate agent also has a responsibility to uphold professional codes of conduct and permitting access that inhibits the peace, comfort or privacy of a tenant could be a breach too, he added.
Rental crisis putting pressure on tenants
Ms Ritchie, who runs an online jewellery business with her siblings, knows she is on the losing end of a power structure in Australia that prioritises the rights of landlords over renters – something that has come into sharp focus amid current rental shortages in cities across the country.
With supply and demand of rental properties being significantly disproportionate in some markets, many tenants feel they need to tread carefully to avoid finding themselves searching for another home.
Social media has been full of hopeful renters waiting in long queues to view vacant apartments.
"The rental crisis in Melbourne is absolutely cooked," one woman commented on Ms Ritchie's TikTok.
Despite the incident with her own landlord, the tenant and her housemates are happy to stay in the property they are living in, with Ms Ritchie even expressing empathy for how "stressful" it can be for landlords.
"I have a lot of respect for landlords. I know that view is not shared by most," Ms Ritchie said.
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