“It’s always there. You always know it’s a possibility.”
Jeremy Kerbel, 39, has been renting in Sydney's Inner West for most of his adult life. In May last year, he and his partner Mari received a knock on the door of their Lewisham home. It was their landlord. They were being evicted - again.
“We knew it was because we stood up for our rights,” Mr Kerbel said.
After two increases in six months, he'd decided to lodge an excessive rent claim with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
“They [the landlord] seemed to have this policy of raising the rent every six months and we were like 'this is ridiculous',” he said.
He was offered three weeks free rent and a new six month lease to withdraw the claim, but halfway through the new agreement - without having missed a single payment - he was handed a 90 day ‘no grounds’ eviction.
“He [the landlord] said informally the reason was ‘I am going to renovate’. This is the sort of thing landlords will do."
And his is not an isolated case.
According to last year's National Renters Survey, conducted by CHOICE, NATO and National Shelter, eight per cent of all tenants have experienced a ‘no grounds eviction’ at least once during their time renting. The survey also found that landlords in NSW and Victoria had the highest rate of ‘no grounds’ evictions’ in the country.
In NSW, a tenant can be given 30 days notice at the end of a fixed-term lease or 90 days notice during an ongoing lease.
A spokesperson for Fair Trading NSW told Central News that the current provisions strike the right balance between tenants and landlord.
[No grounds evictions] ensure that landlords are able to ask for vacant possession without being forced to justify their decision.
Senior Policy Officer at the Tenants’ Union of NSW Leo Patterson Ross, disagrees. He argues that the current renting laws are “half-faced.”
“There is the ultimate trump card from the landlord of being able to say: ‘I’ve had enough of trying to balance this relationship with you, you can leave my property’,” he said.
For Jeremy Kerbel, the eviction not only left him looking for a new home for his partner and daughter - but also a new job.
While he was able to rent a new home in Earlwood, leaving the Inner West made it “too hard to commute” to his job in Parramatta. So he was forced to quit.
“It’s expensive to have to move house because of the way Sydney is," he said. "It’s always hard to find [another] place where you are living especially in the Inner West.
“It disrupts your whole life, you have to work things out again."
The Inner West Council has recently called on the State Government to bring balance to the renting system in NSW and to protect tenants like Jeremy and Mari.
In a media release provided to Central News, Mayor Darcy Byrne said that amending the "no grounds" provision to ‘reasonable grounds’ would: “offer increased security for renters without creating uncertainty for landlords.
“People who rent deserve a fairer deal," he said. "An end to "no grounds" evictions would make NSW a better place in which to live."
Mr Kerbel agrees.
It is an absolute injustice and it’s absurd that someone can get kicked out of their home for no reason.
The threat of a "no grounds" eviction is often used by landlords to intimidate and to ignore repair requests.
For Allison, 50, several requests to her landlord to install locks on her windows and garage door, were answered with: “keep complaining and you might have to move again.”
The Wentworth Community Housing tenant, who is also a carer for her eldest daughter, says she’s being intimidated by her landlord.
“[They] make me feel like I’m human excrement that means nothing,” she said.
Leo Patterson Ross believes that “the system around repairs is let down by the no grounds eviction” and landlords are using it to their advantage to ignore tenants like Allison.
“When push comes to shove, there’s only going to be one winner,” he said.
Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service (ISTASS) Coordinator Nicole Kennedy, says that social housing tenants who lose their homes, “are typically evicted straight into homelessness.”
According to a Fair Trading spokesperson, “tenants are afforded protection against retaliatory terminations."
Under the current system, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal has the discretion to reject a landlord's termination request if it is believed to be done in retaliation towards a tenant.
Leo Patterson Ross argues that this protection is flawed.
“The rules about what constitutes retaliatory [evictions] are very, very tight. So, all the landlord has to do is wait a week or two and serve a new notice,” he said.
Allison’s lease is set to expire in April next year. In the meantime she is changing "how I do things because in the back of my mind, I am always concerned.
“You don’t want to go too far away or make it obvious that you’ve gone somewhere. I quite often leave the car parked in the driveway and walk."
While Mr Kerbel is happy with his current residence, he admits he continues to feel “quite angry” with the “outrageous and unfair” way tenants are treated in NSW.