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Sarah's story


Sarah* is a teacher who has been living with her two daughters in her Sydney home for 10 years.

Lately there has been significant mould due to broken gutters. The real estate agent, who Sarah has always had a good relationship with, organised quotes to fix the issues, but apparently the landlord was not happy with these. Sarah was recently informed that the landlord has decided to change real estate agents.

She now has a choice between pursuing the mould repairs and risking getting evicted from her home and local community.

“My lease was coming to an end and I got a letter saying the rent was going up. When they told me the rent was going up I told them they needed to see to the mould issues in the house.

"Initially the first week this happened – my head would not stop spinning with all the ‘what ifs’, asking myself ‘what will happen now?’ I was very anxious and worried I’d be evicted next. I’ve lost sleep. I’ve had nightmares.

"I had known of the mould for a while, but maybe I wasn’t aware of how serious it was. Recently I noticed it had started to climb down the walls towards us. When I investigated all the rooms there were lots of issues – lots of cracks in the walls.

"So the real estate agent came and tapped a broom on the ceiling – straight away a hole appeared in the ceiling. She said, 'this ceiling needs to be replaced.' She sent around a contractor who quoted $5,500 to replace ceiling and fix mould issue. The agent then told the landlord by law you need to do these repairs.  The landlord turned around and said to her, ‘you’re fired.'

"There is no way would I press for repairs now. I’m too scared. It’s sad – it’s their house that is going to crumble. It’s a really old house, and there’s quite a bit of work that needs to be done. But I don’t want to ask for any repairs. I just want to lay low, pay my rent and hopefully they’ll leave me alone.

"There’s nothing that I can afford in the local area. If we have to move then staying in the area is totally beyond my reality.  We are living week to week to pay my current rent. My kids are wearing second hand uniforms and we eat a lot of pasta.

"My kids are in school here, I’ve got a good job in the local neighbourhood. We’re very settled – the kids can walk home from school. I’ve been working exclusively at one school in the local community for six years.  I’ve seen the kids there go from Kindy to year 6. 

"The school community is like family for me. As an example a little while back I hurt my ankle and I couldn’t get around easily. People from the school really helped me out – offered to walk my kids home from school, brought food around to the house. That’s when I really felt that sense of community. These people really care for my kids and I.

"My eldest daughter has been diagnosed ADHD.  And it had been tricky trying to get formal support for her, because she wasn’t seen as being as ‘bad’ as some others. She’s going in to high school next year and I was really worried. So then someone at the local school volunteered to come and tutor my daughter, and it has really helped. My daughter is just blossoming.  She’s found her feet. The idea of moving her – well I’m very concerned.

"We’re really building our future here. My youngest child has an interview to a competitive local school and would love to go if she gets in. I have a lot of single mum friends here, and it’s a network of support. I can’t imagine having to start that again. It would be really terrifying.

"Moving out of the local community would mean starting again, starting everything again."


* Not her real name. Sarah has chosen not to be identified because she is worried about the security of her tenure in her rented home if she publicly shares her story.