When Living in Australia Is Not a Day at the Beach

Storm over Bondi November 2015

This is a vent, a rant. Given the dark days we’re living in, if you don’t want any more negativity, and I don’t blame you one bit for that, go ahead and slip off this page. Come back another day when I have lovelier things to say. Today I’m going to grizzle and whinge.

I’ve been basically housebound for a good two weeks now. I’m going stir crazy. It all began with a stupid mistake I made, that was then exacerbated by a physio who fancied herself a physician. I’ve been to a real physician now and she instructed me not to go back to that particular physio, or leg wrencher.

Being stuck here at home gives me lots of time to ruminate on the glories of renting in Australia. We had our share of troubles back at our first rental. The place was riddled with mold, sheets of water poured down the entire expanse of upstairs walls when it rained and the property manager told us to put a bucket under it. There was the electric shocking shower issue that we were simply told wasn’t in fact happening, although we’d both experienced it several times.

When we moved into this place three years ago, we were convinced that it would be a different experience. At first, both the owner and property manager seemed approachable and responsive to issues. That was the first week.

A few months later, they did the first walk-through inspection to be sure we weren’t trashing the joint. They sent me a form to fill out with any repairs that needed to be attended to. I listed the loose stone in the front stoop that seems dangerous, the oven that only works on 4 of the 9 settings, and a couple other minor issues. They did send a guy out to look at the oven. He said, “just use a different setting.” That’s great as long as I don’t ever want to broil anything, or simply use the basic bottom burner oven function instead of air circulated heat. Air circulated is great for some things, but not all. He did also say that the door to the oven was broken and should be replaced. Not a one of the issues with the oven or otherwise were addressed.

About three months before the lease was ending, they started pestering us to sign a new lease. We didn’t plan on leaving yet, so weren’t too fussed, even if it seemed a little odd. According to Australian law, we only have to give two weeks notice to vacate.

That following summer we had some issues with the central air. They did send someone out, who told us that what he did was a patch and that the unit needed to be replaced and he would advise the owner of this, as he had done on a couple of previous trips out before we moved in. It wasn’t replaced.

When the first cold air of winter blew through, we turned the heat on and the fan went kerplunk kerplunk. They said they’d send someone out to look at it. They sent an electrician over to change a light bulb instead. We didn’t need a light bulb. For the next few weeks they kept asking us to send photos of the problem. The unit is up in the ceiling somewhere.

They finally replaced the unit just in time to turn it to AC. Granted, winters here are nothing like in Utah, but it is cold and wet and it’s painful to shave the legs when covered with goosebumps.

This year, on the evening of April 17, we were running the dishwasher, when we heard a loud pop. Once I switched the breaker back on I saw dark smoke started billowing out of the machine. I reported it the next morning. They replaced the dishwasher in late May.

There was the leaky toilet earlier this year. Small ponds were forming at the base. I may or may not have accused my husband of peeing on the floor. But, it happened even when I made that bathroom off limits for a day. The owner sent her own “plumber” out to look at it. He told me there was no leak. I pointed at the wet floor. He told me it was mop water. I told him I hadn’t mopped. He stuck his finger in the water, wiped it off, and said, “see? No wet.” I dipped a piece of toilet paper in the puddle and said, “see? Yes wet.” He wiped a piece of toilet paper through the puddle, folded it over to the dry bit, and said… yeah, you get the picture.

The owner does send a painter around about once a month to fix the bubbling paint on the balcony railing that no one can see.

Late last October the property manager started bugging us about the lease again. Mind you, it didn’t terminate until February. Knowing that our Visas were ending this year, we couldn’t sign a year lease. We didn’t know if we’d be here. We told them that we needed some time to see what was going to happen. They said ok. Then about a week later started questioning us about it again. And the next week. Finally, we offered to sign a three month lease and they agreed. One month into it, if that, they started in again trying to get us to sign the twelve month lease. Still no Visa, but “she’ll be right mate!”

After many phone calls and emails and explaining our complete lack of control over whether or not my husband’s company would try to renew the Visa or if Australia would even approve it, they finally agreed to a seven month lease with a “no penalty for early termination” clause. That’s up in December. Today is October 10. They started with the emails September 5.

We still have no confirmation on the Visas. The company is pursuing them, at a snail’s pace. As soon as they submit the application it will be up to Australia to decide whether or not we can stay.

My husband is threatening to have us move to another apartment, one where he hopes we can rent month to month after the initial twelve month lease ends. We do still plan on moving back to the US, and that flexibility would be helpful. Our landlord isn’t flexing that way. She’s not budging at all. Of course they raise the rent with each new lease, to pay for the repairs that took them months to make.

I have to wonder if her fixation on this inflexible lease doesn’t have something to do with all the incidents of arson we’ve had in the neighborhood. It could be hard to rent if we leave. And do we want to stay in a fire hazard zone? I’m pretty certain it’s the hoodlums next door who are the culprits. No proof of course, except for the photo I have of them out front vandalizing the share bikes. The primary hoodlum’s mother, told me when we moved in that she was good friends with the owner. Maybe the owner is trying to get the place burned down in order to collect on the insurance.

I’ll shut up now. I have to go to my new physio. I hope he doesn’t hurt me.