Tenant forced to live in 'unsafe' rental property as ceiling suddenly collapses

Rental advocates say Australia needs to find a solution to the growing problem.

Australia has a problem and it keeps getting worse says rental advocate Jordie van den Berg after witnessing the "dangerous" conditions some tenants are forced to live with — and the latest incident is especially "confronting".

Three tenants have been forced to live in a three-bedroom sharehouse in Melbourne's inner-city without a ceiling after part of it came crashing down unexpectedly — narrowly missing one by a few centimetres.

Two months later, the damage is yet to be repaired, the tenants claim. They've also been made to pay their full $2000-a-month despite the property's sub-par condition. What's more, the SES — who were called to inspect the damage — discovered the lounge room roof was being held up by the air-conditioning unit, which was covered in mould — and it could fall down at any moment.

Left: The ceiling in bedroom of Melbourne rental collapsed Right: Living room ceiling held up by timber plank above air con unit
Melbourne tenants living in a three-bedroom sharehouse say their roof collapsed unexpectedly, but nothing was done about it for two months, Source: Jordie van den Berg

Tenants 'don't feel safe' in own home

One of the tenants Dyxi Mohammed told Van den Berg they were "very lucky" no one was injured but said they no longer feel safe in their home.

"My housemate was getting ready in her bedroom then walked out of her doorway and it just collapsed behind her," she told Van den Berg, who is renowned for calling out problem rental properties. "She’s pretty lucky because one second beforehand she would have been KO’d."

Mohammed said it was a "huge shock" and remembers clearly "big pieces of the ceiling came crashing down onto the bed". "All the dirt and fibres were everywhere, the bedsheets were covered, the whole room was black and dust lined the house," she told the ABC."Being here at home, is just not a safe feeling".

Advocates 'mad' about serious rental problem

Van den Berg told Yahoo News Australia it was "quite confronting" after visiting the property last week and while it's certainly shocking and "dangerous" for the tenants living there, he said he's "seen far worse" — which speaks to a larger problem.

"It's really sad. It's depressing and I'm mad about it. We shouldn't have this in Australia. We're better than that," he told Yahoo on Friday. He said tenants are often "powerless" when it comes to landlord inaction, and Mohammed and her housemates are a prime example of that.

The Melbourne tenants were allegedly told the property was "still safe to live in" and their request for a rent reduction was rejected. "We sent a lot of e-mails to the real estate demanding more action … the response we received was quite underwhelming," the frustrated tenant told ABC saying they didn't consider the "gravity of the situation".

Left: Rental advocate Jordie van den Berg with Dyxi Mohammed outside the Melbourne rental. Right: Two SES workers staring up at bedroom ceiling after it collapsed.
Rental advocate Jordie van den Berg visited the property where Dyxi Mohammed feels 'unsafe' after the ceiling collapsed. Source:Jordie van den Berg

Real estate agency responds to tenant's claims

After sharing his video online outing the real estate Bekdone Rochards who manages the property, Van den Berg said the tenants were finally made an offer, and questioned the timing. However, Bedkon Richards director Paul Richards told Yahoo conversations about compensation "were had prior to any social media posts existing".

He said the "urgent issue was acted upon immediately" and that "further steps have been taken to ensure the safety of the renters". This includes a "make-safe, building and structural inspection, asbestos inspection, insurance assessment and various quotes for rectification whilst adhering to all legislative requirements we are governed by".

"Discussions regarding compensation to the renters are in process with the rental provider to determine a fair and reasonable amount," Richards said. "Additional offers have also been made to assist in finding an alternative suitable rental property, along with the offer of a rent-free period to assist with moving costs which as of close of business yesterday was yet to be accepted or declined by the renters."

Bedroom ceiling with black tarp after it collapsed.
The roof has remained unfixed for more than two months. Source: Jordie van den Berg

Renters encouraged to seek advice during housing crisis

The rental advocate encourages renters to speak up and seek advice where needed, starting with each state's tenant organisation or local MP. He said property managers often"don't have any incentive to do anything until they're forced to".

"It's quite obvious we've got a problem here in Australia and it's a problem that keeps getting worse," he said. "The government's solution at the moment is to build a couple of houses 10 years from now, which is not going to help anyone who was evicted yesterday.

"We do need a long-term solution, but we also need short-term relief because people are struggling now".

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.