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    After Being Rejected 47 Times, This Young Man Finally Scored A Rental. Then A Snake Crawled In Through Holes And Killed His Cat

    Young renters are "scathing" about the system and feel like they pay expensive rents for low-quality houses, according to a new report.

    When 24-year-old Mikael was living in his first sharehouse, a snake killed his cat.

    Mark Kostich / Getty Images

    A stock image of a snake.

    “The house needed to be restumped," he told BuzzFeed News. "There were holes in a lot of the brickwork. The snake essentially crawled in under the foundation and then up into the house. It’s a horror story.”

    Mikael (whose surname was withheld for privacy) and his then partner found Tiger the cat one morning, unable to move. They took her to the vet, where she tested positive for venom. “I found the [dead] snake about a week later underneath the house."

    Mikael was 18 when he signed the lease for that property, in Melton in Melbourne’s west, after applying unsuccessfully for 47 other properties over four months.

    “The process was long and arduous," he said. "Even though my mother offered to be a guarantor for me, the real estate agents said the landlords weren’t particularly interested in having anyone that young,” he said.

    Mikael believes he only managed to secure a rental because his mother and her partner agreed to be listed on the lease as tenants. The real estate agent wasn’t bothered that they wouldn’t actually be living in the property.

    “They just wanted to know if they’d get paid and if the house was going to get clean,” he said.

    Now a full-time massage student at TAFE, Mikael’s income largely comes from Centrelink. Sixty percent of his income goes towards rent and bills, with the remaining 40% going on necessities like food, phone credit and transportation.

    He is living in a sharehouse in Greensborough in Melbourne’s northeast, but he’s not on the lease. When he and his friends, who are aged 30 and 36, applied for the property listing him as one of the applicants, they were rejected. Then they tried again, without Mikael on the form. This time, they succeeded.

    One of his biggest gripes with the rental system is the application process.

    “You have to ... try to get all the information they want and to try to make it look as attractive as possible," he said. "You’re basically putting your life on display: how much you earn, what you’ve been doing, your job, one of them asked about any relationships.

    “You submit it and then they take forever to answer you and when they finally do answer, it’s likely you didn’t get it.”

    Frustration with the application process, and a feeling that younger people can’t compete with older people, are common among renters under 30, according to a new report from Melbourne’s Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC).

    James Ross / AAPIMAGE

    “The Renters’ Journey” aims to bring renters’ perspectives into policy debate. It identifies major issues for renters, including a lack of suitable and affordable rental stock, a power imbalance between renters and landlords, high transaction costs when moving, and poor access to and awareness of renters’ rights.

    While renters in all age groups experienced these problems, those under 30 were “scathing” about the system, which they found to be “a series of frustrating encounters with disconnected pieces of a puzzle in which the outcome was always uncertain”.

    “All renters expressed a sense of powerlessness in the system, but for young renters the sense is they cannot expect to get decent housing and have no real way to change the result,” the report says.

    A consistent complaint among young renters was that housing is low quality and way too expensive. Young renters also told the CPRC that their housing was always low quality, with the price only reflecting location.

    “This peculiarity arises, in their minds, from being at the end of a long housing queue where they will be consistently outperformed by people who are older and have better jobs,” the report says.

    Young renters also reported repeatedly trialling different ways of filling out applications to find a formula that works, with some people like Mikael describing ethical dilemmas over how much information to give landlords about who will actually live in the place.

    CPRC's CEO Lauren Solomon told BuzzFeed News younger renters were also particularly concerned about moving costs, and feared being blacklisted if they complained about their experience.

    "This group is obviously experiencing financial stress to a greater degree than other cohorts," she said, suggesting that returning bonds quickly is one solution.

    Solomon also pointed to the upcoming Victorian mental health royal commission. "We're seeing and hearing things being raised about anxiety and fear and rejection as part of these processes," she said. "For me it seems that there is a very strong link between the experience of housing and being insecure and some of the mental health issues that are likely to be aired."

    The report’s research included workshops with renters. Among the young renters who participated were Mikael, and Finnegan Erben, a 26-year-old student.

    Erben currently rents directly from his landlord in Glen Waverley in Melbourne’s outer southeastern suburbs. But when he rented through real estate agents, “that’s where all the horror stories happened”, he told BuzzFeed News.

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    Erben described having rental applications rejected “time after time”, being spoken down to “like I’m a lesser being” and experiencing derisive and dismissive language when looking for properties previously.

    “It got to the point where I had spent close to six months looking and put in about 120 applications, all of which were declined,” he said.

    “A lot of real estate agents look down on younger people because we have that stigma of being destructive and unreliable.”

    Erben said he saw affordability as the biggest challenge for young renters.

    He now lives in a house that costs $500 a week, split three ways. He considers himself “lucky” to have found an affordable place that friends were already renting in Glen Waverley, which is near Monash University’s Clayton campus and good public transport.

    Erben said a lot of houses in that area are “way out of my price range”, suggesting that large sharehouses are usually the only way for someone his age to find an affordable place.

    Although Erben studies full-time and is not a high earner, location is important to him. “I don’t have a car, so I [use] public transport a lot. Having accessibility to places like a shopping centre and being in the vicinity of so many train lines into the city” are critical, he said.

    The Renter’s Journey report finds this is common among young renters, who see being close to employment, study and social engagement as particularly important. But competition in desirable locations drives up costs.

    “It also makes young renters particularly vulnerable to accepting low quality housing,” the report concludes.

    Hannah Ryan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Hannah Ryan at hannah.ryan@buzzfeed.com.

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