Scary stories from a lovely place
Today was a momentous day for our household. After a four week wait our sweet, little gas heater was connected and is now warming us through to our chilly bones.
We’ve been renting a house in Woonona, north of Wollongong since February. It was the result of a long search and lots of refused applications. We were very happy move in.
It didn’t take us long to realise that, even when you have transitioned from being an applicant to a tenant, it feels like you have zero rights. Even though we are paying money, and in essence a customer, we are never right. The Landlord is always right. And so the Estate Agent is always irritated by my calls, always promising action but never delivering.
Once the cooler weather dawned we quickly realised the house is cold and devoid of sunshine, besides a few welcome rays on the dining room table in the afternoon. We’re pretty anti electric heating; in Jozi’s cold winters Stephen installed a salvaged wood burning stove into our house in Brixton because we wanted to burn wood not electricity. We decided to buy a gas heater because our rented home is endowed with a gas point. After a bit of a search on Ebay and Gumtree we found one in Gerringong which I collected from a bored retired couple.
Then, we payed for a gas bottle which was promptly delivered. I came home to find it at the bottom of my front steps, not around the side of the house where the connection was. The gas company told me that the connection was missing a regulator and so they couldn’t connect it. We were quoted $180 for this little part, a sum we were loathe to pay. But pay we must, the Estate Agent told us the Landlord said.
So I decided to actually read the fine print of my lease. It was pretty confusing, and two helpful people at the Department of Fair Trading agreed with me, it was ambiguous as to who should pay. After much reading on the internet of mistreated tenants woes, websites explaining Tenant’s rights and my lease, I was pretty sure that it wasn’t my problem.
So early last week I phoned the agent and hit her with the big guns. I quoted clauses from the lease and used long words and told them I was sure it wasn’t my responsibility to pay. After a couple of days of inaction I decided to do it face to face. I marched in to Bevans Thirroul, with my double pram laden with library books, read to my children as we waited for the Property Manager and then finally made my speech.
Later that afternoon she called to tell me that she had talked the Landlord into it – he would pay! I was so happy I cried. And today we came home from the library to the lovely sight of the friendly plumber installing the regulator that we didn’t pay for. And now the gas heater is efficiently and cheaply heating my house. The clothes are drying, the air is warm and I’m not wearing a jacket.
It’s a small victory, but feels like one tenant’s triumph over injustice.