Can you imagine paying $680 a week to live in a house you don’t own?
Well, that’s the reality for many, according to Trade Me data for October.
Tauranga median weekly rents jumped from $650 to $680 and from $500 to $550 in Rotorua. Plus, the number of listings dropped 30 per cent in Rotorua and 15 per cent in Tauranga.
That’s a huge chunk of cash to shell out every week for a home in which you can’t pick the colour scheme, have a cat without permission, or maybe even allow another family member to move in.
It’s crazy. That median price range for Tauranga is quite a bit more than we pay per week for our mortgage, rates, and insurance combined on our family home purchased in 2020. And we can decorate and maintain it how we please.
Since we bought the house, we’ve repainted and recarpeted, bought all new curtains, changed all the light fittings, modernised the bathroom and toilet, re-done the insulation and installed a heat pump, and have begun the mammoth task of landscaping an unretained, sloped section - all to bring the home to the condition we want and to the aesthetic we find most appealing.
And we’ve done it all on a tight budget - bit by bit, as finances allow.
Considering most of that work was DIY, our house has often resembled a construction zone – but that’s the beauty of owning your own home. You have the power - finances permitting - to make the changes you desire and truly transform the space into your home, at your own pace.
One of my first rental homes was a rather ramshackle house I shared with a group of other young folk. We paid average market rent for it and, boy, was it something else.
The back yard was a neglected mess, the curtains were heavy and musty, the carpet was stained and the kitchen could have been a museum piece. Not to mention that this was before the advent of insulation regulations.
The landlord put the minimum possible amount of effort into maintaining the property. And yet he quibbled about whether we were allowed to hang framed photographs on the walls or even establish a flower garden.
“It’ll be too much work to maintain when you move out,” was his logic. It’s those little things that really rub in that you’re living under someone else’s roof at their convenience – and paying for the privilege.
Needless to say, we didn’t last long in that particular home and quickly found another rental to move into that was a… slight… improvement.
That landlord moaned at every inspection that we should be leaving our windows open all day every day, despite all of us having day jobs, there being no security latches on said windows, and the house being on a busy street.
Hashtag landlord logic. We aired the house like normal people, by the way. That just wasn’t good enough for him.
Now, I’m not suggesting a tenant should be allowed to move into a rental property and give the house a complete makeover behind the owner’s back. There’s a reason landlords have rules about this – they want to protect an asset from damage. That’s fair enough.
But I do believe that renters should be allowed to make non-structural, superficial changes to the place they call home.
Not only do renters have to deal with rules that they may feel are arbitrarily restrictive - they’ve always got the threat of instability lurking in the shadows.
A landlord might tell you they’re searching for a tenant to lease the property for five to 10 years, but they could also ask you to move out after six months if they decide to sell the property. You just never know what may happen – and that seems to be a growing issue for renters in the Bay of Plenty.
One local rental agency boss reported this week that he lost six properties in a month as landlords sold up and said some of his tenants “have been pushed out on to the streets”.
And renter Maia Humphrey is trying to find a fourth rental property for herself and her daughter to move into after her three most recent homes were sold by their landlords. And if she can’t find a property this week, she and her child will be couch surfing.
She posted on social media asking for help after struggling to find a place through traditional routes.
Basically, being a renter is an expensive and stressful business, and that’s if you can find a house in the first place. And then you’re often treated like a naughty schoolchild who can’t be trusted to make good choices.
Ugh. I’m so glad I’ve left that scene. Instead, I get to sip a glass of merlot in my very own backyard in a well-maintained home that costs less per week than the average rental.
Sonya Bateson is a writer, reader and crafter raising her family in Tauranga. She is a millennial who enjoys eating avocado on toast, drinking lattes and defying stereotypes. As a sceptic, she reserves the right to change her mind when presented with new evidence.