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Single mum of four kicked out of Sydney home just before Christmas

Unable to negotiate a $400 a week rent raise, this firefighter spoke out.

A firefighter and single mother of four children has been booted from her Sydney rental property after speaking out about a rent raise of $400 a week, painting a stark picture of the rental crisis.

Kristina Gram tried to negotiate a weekly bump from $800 to $1,100 but, in response, the 45-year-old was told the landlord really wanted $1,200. Gram said it had become harder for tenants to speak out without fear of retribution after receiving an eviction notice just days after talking to the media about her experience.

Her eviction date is just five days before Christmas, a terrifying prospect when you consider Sydney has reached record-low vacancy rates of just 1.2 per cent, which in part has driven rents up to a median price of $1,012.57 a week.

Renting firefighter with her four children and an inset of the eviction notice she received.
Rent crisis: Sydney mum Kristina is facing a nightmare just before Christmas after being evicted just days after she spoke out about a $400 a week rent increase. (Credit: A Current Affair)

"No one wants to be the bad tenant, but who is it we need to talk to to make this situation a little bit better? It's a rental crisis. There's not enough homes. When's this going to stop?” she told A Current Affair.

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A tenant is evicted every 18 minutes in NSW, a Fair Trading end-of-tenancy survey found. The state government supported the banning of no-grounds evictions during the election but the laws have not transpired, meaning it’s completely legal to kick a tenant out without cause. Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT have ended no-fault evictions.

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Gram is one of many calling for more rights for tenants, including caps on how much rent can be increased.

In NSW, rent can be raised by any amount once a year as long as it’s considered “market price”. A tenant can fight the raise in the SW Civil and Administrative Tribunal but it can be taxing and time-consuming for vulnerable renters.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found rental costs had gone up 7.6 per cent in the past year, while the Reserve Bank (RBA) noted advertised rents had jumped 30 per cent since before the pandemic.

The RBA has warned conditions in the rental market are unlikely to ease anytime soon.

The “crisis” is putting more Australians, like Gram and her family, at risk of homelessness. Further north, a man said he was forced to live in a tent beside a highway after struggling to find a place to live in Brisbane.

Domain’s chief of research, Nicola Powell, told Yahoo Finance Australia needed to start thinking differently about the rental market, considering many more were renting for far longer.

“We should be offering longer-term leases, we should be giving security of housing for people who are renters,” she said.

“Over 2023, we saw a lot of investors sell out and what that meant was many people were having to change homes and/or they can't afford what the new rent is going to be, and that has impacts. Particularly [for] families and [if] they've got young kids who are enrolled in a certain school, it becomes very challenging to provide that continuity of education if you're constantly having to rental hop.”

A Victorian parliamentary inquiry just yesterday found rent freezes should only be considered as a short-term fix in a time of crisis, like during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concerns have been raised that rent limits will only further diminish supply. However, the Greens - who are calling for an immediate two-year rent freeze and a permanent cap on increases - have argued the current crisis demanded action.

"By the report's own benchmarking, the current rental crisis would call for the urgent introduction of a rent freeze," Greens committee members Aiv Puglielli and Sarah Mansfield wrote in a minority report.

SGS ECONOMICS, NATIONAL SHELTER chart showing rental unaffordability in Sydney.
More Australians are facing homelessness due to the spiralling rental crisis. This map shows the unaffordability in Sydney. (Credit: SGS Economics/National Shelter)

Housing crisis not just impacting renters

Gram’s real estate agent, New Grande Group, said the landlord’s family had recently faced “significant health challenges”, which added a “layer of complexity to an already difficult situation”.

“The eviction notice served aligns with efforts to navigate these challenges effectively. I want to convey our deep regret that these circumstances have influenced the decision regarding the rental rate,” a statement to A Current Affair said.

The statement noted the rise to $1,200 was “well below the current market rate, taking into account the rising costs associated with property ownership”.

There’s no denying the housing crisis is layered, with extra financial pressure for mortgage holders due to the RBA’s 13 rate increases since May last year. The 4.35 per cash cent rate is a 12-year high and means the average borrower, with a debt of $500,00 is paying an extra $1,210 since the start of the RBA's aggressive attack on inflation.

Those with larger loans of $1 million - which doesn't even cover the cost of an average home in Sydney - needs to find an extra $2,420 every month than they were 18 months ago.

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