The Flat Chat wrap this week is taken up with three main topics.
The first is a petition to parliament to create a blacklist of bad landlords … launched by someone who is a landlord herself.
Victoria is about to get one next month and it seems only fair that, if NSW tenants can be put on a blacklist that makes it harder for them to get rentals, then bad landlords should also be named and shamed in the hope they sharpen up their ideas to get good renters.
You can find links to the petition here.
Our second topic is the “skyscratcher” hotel planned for Pitt St, Sydney. In the podcast we erroneously reference the architects’ (Durbach Block Jaggers) website as the home of some caustic comments.
In fact, we were thinking of the excellent Dezeen online architecture and design magazine (from which we pilfered the illustrations on this page). Check it out if you are at all interested in innovative building design.
And by the way, some reader comments on that site say the plan was just a kite-flying attempt to get publicity and that development application to City of Sydney had been withdrawn after objections from neighbours.
That doesn’t seem to be the case if you look at the detailed application documents HERE on the City of Sydney website.
If you’re excited by innovative high-rise architecture (even though it’s an hotel) have a look at Dezeen for more detail.
And finally we found the pet-friendliest apartment block in Sydney which has its own cat café. However, we’ve also found another one in Surry Hills called Catmosphere which offers cat yoga (among other things) for feline-deprived locals.
It’s bookings only so don’t just turn up or the fur will fly.
Transcript in full.
Bad landlords and skinny buildings; that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. That new building in Sydney, they’re describing it as a sky-scratcher, because it’s too thin to be called a skyscraper.
I think they’re splitting hairs there. They are our main topics of conversation and a move to have a blacklist of bad landlords. I’m Jimmy Thomson; I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review.
And I’m Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain with the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age.
And this is the Flat Chat Wrap.
Sue, you’ve been talking to somebody about a blacklist for landlords?
Yes. They had a really bad experience renting property, and they’re actually also a landlord themselves, so they know what they’re talking about. They had a bad experience; lots of things went wrong. Repairs, problems, and the landlord’s mother used to visit their home without giving notice and all that kind of thing. They went to Fair Trading, then they went to NCAT and got an order against their landlord. They feel that there are lots of lousy landlords out there, and they deserve to be highlighted so that when you go to rent an apartment or a house, you actually know…
What their track record is.
Yeah. Whether they have good tenant references; whether they’ve had rulings against them in NCAT in the past. Whether they’ve got a bad reputation or whether they’re a great landlord.
Well, a blacklist is not going to list people who are great landlords, so that’s a kind of separate thing, isn’t it?
Sure, okay. I think you’re splitting hairs, now Jimmy!
We’ve got a blacklist for tenants, right?
Yes, that’s right, and that’s a privately-run blacklist. I think that’s quite difficult; it’s very hard to get off of once you’re on there.
There should be an equivalent for bad landlords.
So, you get on the tenant’s blacklist by defaulting on your rent; damaging property. First of all, you’ve got to find out if you’re on the blacklist. If you’ve had a bad experience with a landlord, you might probably check to see if they’ve just said, ‘this is a bad tenant, put them on the blacklist.’
Suddenly, when you’re being turned down by lots of other…
Yeah, and you can’t understand why and then you find out your previous landlord (one of the bad landlords), has said, ‘oh, this is a bad tenant.’
Maybe, a good landlord has said ‘this is a bad tenant.’
Yes, but I’m saying a bad landlord would say you were a bad tenant, when you hadn’t been a bad tenant. A good landlord (I may be being naive here), but a good landlord would not say you were a bad tenant if you had not been a bad tenant.
Yes, absolutely, but a good landlord could also put you on the blacklist, if you are actually a bad tenant.
Now let’s move to the bad landlord scenario and let’s not get too specific about the person that you spoke to.
Well, they’re now putting up a petition. It’s online, and they’re inviting people to sign it. I think they’re aiming for 20,000 signatures; it’s going to the Legislative Assembly. It’s got member Jenny Leong from the New South Wales Government behind it and they’re very much hoping that they can get passed into law, this landlord’s blacklist, and basically, it will be a list of all NCAT findings against landlords. As you know, when NCAT makes a finding against landlords, that’s not actually registered on their website, is it? You have to look it up.
No. I mean, they used to have everything (every decision they ever made, you could find), but in recent years, they’ve been quite selective. There tends to be things that have gone to appeal, or aspects that kind of define new aspects of the law, generally. Or, they just pick a few at random, but you certainly don’t get that blanket coverage of every NCAT decision turning up online. Which is a shame, actually, because it used to be a very good way of finding out dodgy developers, because you could go to the NCAT decisions, and then look at the names of the people and the companies and then check back through ASIC. Anyway, the thing about the petition is I think they have to reach 20,000 and that then forces parliament to at least discuss the issue, provided there is an MP, (a member of parliament) …
Willing to sponsor it.
And they have that, with Jenny Leong.
And they also have a precedent in Victoria, because Victoria, on March the 29th, is going to introduce a similar kind of landlord’s blacklist system. They’ve got changes to their Residential Tenancies Act and they’re meant to be coming into force much earlier, but because of COVID, they’ve been delayed. They’re coming in on March 29 and that includes a provision for a landlord’s blacklist as well. So, there is a precedent over there.
They don’t have landlords in Victoria anymore; they call them ‘rental providers.’ I think they’ve decided landlord is a bit gender-specific.
It’s a bit old-fashioned, I guess, isn’t it?
Yeah. You kind of get the idea that the landlord is going to ride up on their horse.
Sure. It will be interesting to see how that works out over there. I was talking to the New South Wales Tenants Union about this plan, and they were saying ‘yeah, it’s a good idea,’ but they feel it doesn’t really go far enough. They’d like to see a register of landlords, or ‘rental providers.’ So, people will actually have to register, and then they get licensed and they maybe have to do a little course, so that they can qualify to be a rental provider, because they say it’s running a business. When you run a business, you have to know your rights and responsibilities. Many people buy a property, rent it out and they have no idea how to manage their business, or what they’re meant to do for their tenants.
I guess for ‘the mum and dad investors,’ it’s a bit much, really. You could say, look, here’s your choice. Either you run it yourself and do this little course and register, or you do it through a rental agent, because they are supposed to know what the responsibilities are.
The Tenants Union say… The government has been discussing forever, doing a register of short-term accommodation providers. Airbnb and Stayz, and those kinds of platforms. They said, ‘well, if they can do it for them, (although they haven’t done it yet), they should also be doing it for long-term accommodation providers, too, because this is people’s lives we’re talking about.’ I mean, we’ve all had, (probably everybody’s had), terrible rental experiences in the past. I know we have too. I remember, we rented an apartment once and the carpet was absolutely putrid, and we kept asking through the agent, if we could have new carpet. Eventually, the agent said, ‘yes, the landlord has agreed to a new carpet.’ They came in, took out the old carpet, and put in this incredible carpet, which was kind of nylon, and every time you walked on it, you got an electric shock. Do you remember that? It was just so awful, and we decided we couldn’t live there anymore. We ended up having to move.
Yeah, I remember that landlord; the rental agent, in fact. We went to his office to sign the new lease and we were like, three minutes late. I remember him telling the secretary, ‘go and have your lunch,’ and she said, ‘don’t you need me to witness this new lease agreement?’ And he said, ‘just go and have your lunch.’ We’re watching all this. I said, ‘we’re here to sign the new lease,’ and he said, ‘I don’t have anybody to witness it.’
Yeah, it was kind of like trying to torture renters.
It was like we’re punishing you for being three minutes late. I remember, I went absolutely ballistic at this guy. I said, ‘I saw what you just did; I’m not stupid,’ and then the manager of the real estate agency came out and said, ‘what’s going on here?’ I explained it to him and he said, ‘that’s fine; I’ll witness it.’ The rental agent was beside himself! I saw as we were leaving, the manager of the real estate agency, saying ‘right, you come with me. We need to have a chat; you and I.’
I think it’s quite regular that some property managers can be bullies. Maybe if they don’t like their job very much, or they’re frustrated in some way, they can take it out on tenants as well. We’ve got friends and their kids are renting. I remember, lots of things were going wrong with the apartment, but they were really nervous about telling the agent because they didn’t want the agent to get it fixed, and then possibly hike up their rent. They were absolutely terrified and that’s an awful way to have to live. I mean, if renting is going to be a much bigger way of life in Australia in the future, we have to make sure that being a renter is a much more pleasant experience than it has perhaps been in the past.
Security of tenure would be something and just being treated decently. Some of these bad landlords we’ve been hearing about, a lot of them are lawyers, and they’re bullies, and they’ve got mates in the tribunal. The tenant goes in there looking at, ‘well, these are my rights, and these are my responsibilities and I’m in the right here.’ They suddenly find that the member of the tribunal and the landlord are chuckling about their last golf game and they think, ‘I may as well just go home.’ Okay, after this, we’re going to be talking about the skinniest building planned for Sydney (and Australia, for that matter). That’s after this.
So, what is this skinny building, Jimmy?
I can tell you where it is (or it’s going to be) it’s at 410 Pitt Street, in Sydney; down in the grubby end of Pitt Street near Central station, in Haymarket. It’s going to be very thin. It’s going to be 6.4 meters wide, making it the skinniest high-rise in Australia. The previous record holder is the Phoenix apartments in Melbourne, which is 11.2 meters wide, so, this is about half the width of that.
Wow, and the Phoenix building, that’s apartments is it?
Yeah and it’s quite spectacular. It’s on
It’s got blue shapes around the front of the building, which make it look even more extraordinary than it already is. It’s a very striking building. This one, the architects are Durbach Block Jaggers.
A very well-known architectural firm.
Yeah. You’re aware of a couple of buildings.
They did the Barcelona building in Potts Point. The curvy building.
I did a bit of digging and I went on their website (we’ll put a link on the show notes). It’s got these fabulous illustrations of their plans.
It’s meant to be a hotel isn’t it, not apartments?
Yeah, it’s a hotel and, wow, the comments on their website…Architects are really vicious. Really! People saying, ‘oh, this is a second-year architecture project and it’s just puffery. There will never be a building there.’ Somebody said, ‘well, there’s a DA in, the City of Sydney,’ and somebody wrote, ‘well, that was withdrawn five days ago.’ I thought, what’s going on here? I went to the City of Sydney website. The detailed plans are incredible. I mean, there’s no way that this was just a flight of fancy. You know, let’s get some publicity by putting in a project that will never happen, that kind of thing. This is very real. The building at the moment is three stories in between two. Well, on the one side, you’ve got the Miramar Apartments and on the other side, you’ve got the West End Hotel, which kind of looks a bit ‘New Yorky.’ You can see from a tattered sign at the front that it used to be called the West End Backpackers. It’s not in great nick, you would assume. It’s a small frontage; looks like it’s been a restaurant, on the ground floor. It goes way back, into the gap between the two buildings. It was a 74-room boarding house. What they’re going to replace it with, is seven floors of podium at the bottom (that’s going to have all the services and things like that), and then it’s 100 meters up.
That’s pretty high.
Yeah and the interesting thing is because it’s narrow and goes back, what they’ve done is… If you imagine they’ve drilled down from the roof at two points and put in circular light wells. The two rooms adjacent to those light wells each have natural light coming in, which is kind of interesting. The very top two floors are going to be a spa and there’s going to be a kind of lip balcony thing that comes out at the very top. So, fabulous views. I hadn’t realized because they’re taking over what has been a boarding house, they have to find accommodation for the residents of the boarding house, before they can demolish. Or, at least they’ve got to come up with a plan.
I think they’ve got to pay the relocation expenses of the people in the boarding house and things like that, which is nice.
There are lots of new boarding places; these new generation boarding houses around, so hopefully there’ll be plenty of accommodation available.
We’ll put the link on the show notes, but people should have a look. I think it’s going to be fantastic. The area could do with something like that.
Yeah, why should Melbourne get all the spectacular buildings, although we have had a few lately. Although it’s going to be a hotel, presumably this could provide a bit of a template for those small sites that are laying unused around the city and in other suburbs. You could actually imagine tall, thin buildings being created for apartments as well in the future.
One of the interesting things they’re saying about this is because of where it is, and the size of the site, and the size of the building they’re going to put in there, they can’t put cranes in. They’re going to basically build it level by level. They’re saying it’s going to be virtually hand-built. You’ll do one level, and then they’ll put the forms in, and they’ll pour the concrete in the next level. It’s a big, big project. I think it’s 173 rooms it’s going to have, and each of them, as we said, will have at least a glimmer of natural light. We’ve stayed in hotels, where you can get a cheaper room if you don’t want a window. It kind of gets a bit weird after a couple of days, but it’s possible. It looks like the kind of hotel that people would arrive at the station from the airport, drop their bags for a couple of nights and then maybe head off to somewhere else. I think it’s looks like a really, really interesting building. When we come back, some good news for pets. They are getting their own apartment blocks now, apparently. That’s after this. Sue, tell me about the friendliest pet-friendly apartment block in the world.
That’s a tall order, isn’t it? Crown Group have built a new building, Waterloo Waterfall, which is quite remarkable because of a big waterfall, which is meant to be the highest waterfall running down a building in the world. They realized that people were wanting to keep pets in apartments, so they’ve designed it specifically to make it easier for pet lovers to have their pets there. They’ve got lots of ground area; lots of grassed areas for dogs, lots of internal gardens. They’ve also got a couple of places in their retail base building, specifically for pets as well. They’ve got a cat café; I think it’s called You Meow. They’ve also got a dog grooming salon. Well, maybe you can groom cats there as well. I mean, our cats wouldn’t like grooming. Some cats might.
You never know.
So, that’s an interesting development.
They’ve got a little doggie park, basically?
That’s right. Yeah, they’ve got 3600 square meters of dog-friendly parks. So, pretty amazing.
I wonder if it’s one of those dog parks where they’ve got things for dogs to jump through and stuff.
Oh, that would be fun to watch; like Sheep dog/ Border Collie trials. Oh, that would be great. You would love that; we’d have to buy one.
I’d go and live there and get a Border Collie and fulfill my lifelong ambition. The cat thing; are these rescue cats?
That’s right. Yeah, they’re rescue cats.
So, you can go down and sort of make friends with a cat and then feel guilty about leaving it there and worry that it won’t be there when you come back next time?
Yeah, maybe so. That’s a really good idea, isn’t it, because there are so many rescue cats wanting homes. If the cafe takes 10 and then open the next day and find that they’ve only got five and people have come in and stolen their favorite cats, or asked to adopt them…
I don’t think taking a cat out of the cafe is quite the same as stealing sugar sachets.
It will be kind of nice for cats won’t it, because they’ll get lots of affection; lots of cuddles. Although, some cats don’t like cuddles. Most normal cats would really have a good time in there.
Right. Well, thank you very much for that. We’ve run out of time. Thanks for coming in and talking about everything. Sky-scratchers and bad landlords and happy days for cats. Thanks for listening. Bye.
Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast.
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