People STRUGGLE TO CREATE A STABLE HOME
Peoples’ stories highlight an inability to create a sense of home. They also demonstrate the extreme insecurity caused by actual or possible eviction. Having to move frequently comes with high costs and dislocation from community; even the possibility of moving creates anxiety and makes people who rent reluctant to speak up about problems.
Challenges of creating a sense of home
Renters are usually prohibited from making changes that would personalise their rental house, for instance putting up pictures, changing the garden or painting. Due to the difficulty of finding a rental place, renters can also be deterred from having pets, which for some, means forgoing another mark of settling and making a home. Renters shared these experiences.
One renter also shared that the landlord’s poor maintenance prevented them from creating a home they could open up to friends.
These examples support the finding of a 2015 survey of 1,099 tenants. In that study, one in four respondents did not feel ‘at home’ in their rental house.
Insecurity due to actual or possible eviction
A major theme in people's stories was a feeling of insecurity due to actual or possible eviction. Renters on fixed term leases have no guarantee their lease will be renewed. Those on periodic leases may be asked to leave with 90 days notice, or 42 days if the owner’s family will move in or the property is sold. (It is worth noting that these laws contrast starkly with how other countries approach security of tenure. Ireland, for instance, legislated in 2004 to provide renters 4 years security. Scotland provides tenants with unlimited right to remain).
Numerous stories shared in this review were moving, and the high costs and stress involved:
Based on existing academic research, these experiences are very common. A 2015 survey of 1,099 tenants found that in the previous two years, nearly half (46 percent) had moved, one third of these because the landlord sold the house.
In this review, people shared the personal impacts of this instability. Stories highlighted how renters feel on tenterhooks, unwilling to put down roots when they expect to be moved on.
People highlighted that frequent moves are particularly unsettling for children. One renter shared that his daughter was afraid to make a new best friend, having already said goodbye to several best friends in her short number of years. Academic studies have found that regular moves interrupt children’s schooling and connection with health services.
Other renters shared stories of children having to move:
Numerous renters mentioned the anxiety they felt due to the possibility of having to uproot their lives. They expressed worry about an uncertain future, high costs and even homelessness:
This insecurity cast a black cloud of anxiety over even the best tenancies:
Particularly noteworthy is the impact of insecure tenure on renters accessing their rights. In numerous stories, renters cited the possibility of eviction as a significant factor preventing them from speaking up to change to their situation.
In summary, renters’ stories highlighted insecurity and instability: the challenges of creating a home, and the exhaustion, anxiety and powerlessness that result from insecurity of tenure.
One renter’s words summarise the result when these conditions are experienced by such a large number of New Zealanders: