Pensioner Evict

Reporter: Bryan Seymour

Bureaucrats use measured words to disguise and soften reality. Which is why we were interested in a reserve bank statement on interest rates today, especially where it talked about 'subdued' consumer confidence. It's the sheer terror of some of the thousands of older Australians now being forced from their rented homes by landlords convinced they need more money to pay mortgages. It's the horror of starting over...when you're in your 70's.

"...Ohhh, come on... Look! I might be 76 but nobody's coming in here and throwing us bodily outside, they'll have to come over me first before they get to you!!" Paul Medina is 75, his wife Mary is 72. They're scared and anxious victims of our housing crisis. They are being kicked out of their home without any grounds. For nearly 14 years they've lived in their West Sydney's house. The owner kept the rent at $160 a week. In return, the Medina's cared for the home and never asked for, or received, any major repairs or upgrades.

The Medina's neighbours love them. "You wouldn't find a better people than what them two!" said neighbour Ivan. Then, last year, the landlord Colin Comber sold the house to his son Mark, who runs the family's real estate business. When he bought the house off his dad, Mark bumped up the rent 30% or $50 a week. "We paid it... (And you've been paying it ever since?) That's right!" said Mr Medina.

Paul and Mary's only luxuries now, visits from their two children and bingo at the local RSL. Between them they've survived a stroke, cancer, prostate surgery, diabetes and high blood pressure. They're not sure they can cope with having to move from what they thought would be their last home. "What would like me to ask Mark on your behalf?

"Well I would like to know the reason, if he's got anything, not an excuse, a reason," said Mr Medina. I caught up with Mark Comber. "They (the Medina's) said the one question they wanted me to ask you was why are you asking them to leave?) "Yeah, because I really need to renovate the house," said Mr Comber.

"Have you told them that? "Yes, definitely, I went up and handed personally the notice to Mr Medina, but obviously he was a bit upset, he's been in the home a long time.... and I need to protect the property and I need to protect my asset." "I still have a mortgage to pay on that property, I need to get the best possible return that I can get on that property to pay my mortgage, everyone's finding it hard."

Things are tough all over, never more so than when you're 70 plus and starting over. "We don't think it's fair," said Chris Martin, from the NSW Tenants Union. "We think without grounds notices don't have a place in fair renting laws," said Martin. The Tenants Union is campaigning for all states and territories to match the law in Tasmania, where Termination Notices have to include a fair reason for kicking the tenants out.

"It's not fair that they're able to give notices without grounds because that gives to cover to terminations for all sorts of bad reasons," Martin said. Including simply getting rid of the current tenants to get higher-paying tenants in. In Queensland, residents at the Gateway Village Caravan Park at Rochedale in Brisbane's South are protesting a rent hike of $65 a fortnight, a 22% jump. For all here the cost of living is near life-threatening. There's the rent, then there's..."...insurance, food, phone, electricity, which is all separate... And there's very little left over and that means about five dollars," said resident Rita Podger.

Worse still... The value of their homes is falling. So, they're trapped paying more while the landlord makes a mint. "The ordinary pensioner that's on a single pension, he puts it up to that price... I don't know how they're going to live, eat and pay their way," said another resident. "I had a woman on the phone, rang me a couple of nights ago she was nearly in tears, she asked me what she could do and I didn't have an answer for her," said resident Neville Beacroft."The market is freezing up," explained Chris Martin.

There're not enough new houses to rent out and there are fewer existing rental properties up for grabs. "We've noticed that people are staying put in their rental properties, there's not nearly the same amount of turnover of rentals," Martin said.

Then last year rents jumped up to 7% across the board, more than double the rate of inflation; all combining to leave low income earners, especially pensioners like Rita Podger, in the lurch. "It's... It's... The $64,000 question isn't? I mean, where do we go?"

NSW Tenants Union

Tel: 1800 251 101, Website: http://www.tenants.org.au/

Tenants AdviceServiceWA
Metro: 08 9221 0088 (Mon-Fri 8.30am-3.30pm), Country Freecall: 1800 621 888

Website: http://www.taswa.org/

Tenants Union ACT

Tenants' Advice Service (02) 6247 2011, Website: http://www.tenantsact.org.au/

Tenants Union of Queensland

Tel: (07)3257 1108, 1800 177 761 (outside Brisbane)
Website: http://www.tuq.org.au/

TenantsUnionofVictoria:
Tel: (03) 9416 2577, Website: http://www.tuv.org.au/

Tenants Union of Tasmania

Advice Line: 1300 652 641, Hobart Area: 6223 2641

Website: http://www.tutas.org.au/