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Mum on Centrelink rejected from 150 rentals, as expert explains 'difficult' reality

The mum of three has been forced to move in with family in Tasmania, after being hit with a rental increase.

A Gold Coast mum has been left devastated after being rejected from 150 rental properties, forcing her to uproot her life and move interstate with her kids.

Single mum of three Zoe Somers started looking for a new home after the rent on her Pimpama house increased by 30 per cent to $640 per week, making it hard for her to cover rent and rising living expenses.

Zoe, who separated from her husband last year, applied for 150 homes on the Gold Coast between March and December last year, only to be knocked back each time.

Single mum Zoe Somers struggling to find rental
The Gold Coast mum applied for rentals over a six-month period and was knocked back each time. (Source: Supplied)

Do you have a story to share? Contact tamika.seeto@yahooinc.com

“Initially, I was sad every time I got knocked back,” Zoe told Yahoo Finance. “I cried a lot in the beginning. Then, in the end, I was more defeated.

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“I almost felt like, ‘What is the point?’. But I knew I had to do it because, if I didn’t, I faced homelessness with my kids. I didn’t want them to live in a car or a tent.”

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Zoe, whose youngest child is two years old, currently receives the Single Parenting Pension and Family Tax Benefit from Centrelink and previously worked as a housekeeper for seven years.

She said she applied for properties that were actually cheaper than the rent she had been paying and even got a guarantor to help increase her chances of securing a property.

“I have an excellent rental history. I’ve been renting my whole life and started renting when I was 16,” the 35-year-old said. “I have never lost any bond, I’ve never missed a rental payment in my life, [but] it just doesn’t matter.”

Zoe Somers and kids
Zoe has now moved back to Tasmania with her kids and is living with family. (Source: Supplied)

Originally from Launceston, Zoe moved to the Gold Coast eight years ago in the hopes of giving her kids better access to education and health care, along with better job opportunities for herself and her then-partner.

But, after struggling to secure a rental for her family for eight months, Zoe made the difficult decision to move back to Tasmania in February.

“In the end, I just knew I wasn’t going to get a rental and I had to go,” she said.

Zoe said moving ended up setting her back between $5,000 and $6,000. She and her kids are now living with her mother and step-father in Launceston while she tries to secure a rental. She is about to start a new job as a cleaner.

Rental market ‘getting harder’ for single mums

Jenny Davidson, CEO of Council of Single Mothers and Their Children, said it was getting harder for single mums to compete in an increasingly competitive rental market.

“The majority of single mothers are in the private rental system, so they are not in public housing and they’re often locked out of home ownership,” Davidson told Yahoo Finance.

“Even low-income single mothers are trying to compete in the rental market and it is definitely getting harder. It is difficult for any single-income applicant to compete against double-income applicants.”

Zoe Somers and daughter
Zoe is hoping to break the "stigma" surrounding single mums. (Source: Supplied)

Davidson said single mums relying on social security payments were “even more shut out of the housing market”.

“Essentially, the only way you can get a house in those circumstances is to find something that nobody else wants,” she said.

“They are substandard rentals and they often end up not being long-term tenancies. The quality of the house can be so bad [families] aren’t able to remain in it for very long and it can also have impacts on their health. There’s a lot of ramifications.”

To keep up with rising rents, Davidson said many single mums were sacrificing family holidays and extra-curriculars for their kids, with some mums forced to forgo essential medicines and skip meals to make ends meet.

Rental vacancies plummet

Anne Crarey, executive general manager of property services at Little Real Estate which has offices across the east coast, said this was the tightest rental market she had seen in her 25-year career in the industry.

“Prospective tenants face the most challenging conditions we’ve ever seen,” Crarey said. “To have rental vacancies below 1 per cent at all of our offices is unheard of.”

The national vacancy rate reached an all-time low of 0.7 per cent in February, according to Domain’s vacancy report. Despite this, the research found the number of prospective tenants per rental listing was easing, indicating falling competition between renters.

Davidson believes single mums make “great tenants” because they are often seeking stability and will prioritise paying rent to create a safe home for their child.

Zoe also hopes to break the “stigma” around single mums, particularly those who receive Centrelink benefits.

“Being a single mum, we’re all doing our best, we’re all trying to look after our kids and give them a safe place to live,” she told Yahoo Finance. “If anything, single mums are going to have a lot more to lose by not looking after a rental.”

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