A FORMER Sale resident who struggled to find rental accommodation after being forced to vacate his unit is warning others to be wary of rental scams advertised by online fraudsters.
James Page, who featured in a recent Gippsland Times article, has told of his relief at securing a property in the Latrobe Valley the day before he was to be made homeless.
He had applied for between 15 and 20 rental properties every week after being told by his agent he had 60 days to leave his Sale unit because the landlord was moving back in.
Mr Page was at breaking point last month and said his fruitless efforts to find alternative accommodation had pushed him “to the brink of suicide”.
And he isn’t the only one in housing stress.
People searching for affordable rentals inundated the Gippsland Times with personal stories of hardship and despair, with some afraid they will be forced to sleep on the streets.
Luckily for Mr Page, the day before he was to hand back the keys and begin couch surfing at a friend’s house, he received the good news that his application for a property he applied for two months earlier had been approved.
“To be honest I was sort of numb for a couple of days after I found out, and when it sunk in I realised how stressed the situation had been making me and how it had taken over my life,” he said.
“Sadly, there are still a lot of people out there in the same situation and desperate to find a property.”
So desperate in fact that scammers are using their desperation to try to rip them off.
Mr Page said there were rental scams currently circulating on Gippsland websites where someone offers a rental property, but claims to live interstate and requires bank deposit payments before the keys can be provided for inspection.
“A woman posted the warning on a Facebook site and I have since heard that there are several such scams around,” he said.
“These particular people are not even in Australia, they are operating from Nigeria and are preying on people’s desperation.”
With his accommodation dramas behind him, for now, Mr Page said he was grateful for all the assistance available to renters like himself, and advised others to investigate their options.
“My advice would be to really look into who can help and what assistance is out there, because the information is not always easy to come by,” he said.
Mr Page said local agencies were helpful, as well as Good Shepherd which provided financial help, and he was able to move to a two-bedroom unit for his son, with whom he shares custody with his ex-partner.
“There is help out there — because I have a Commonwealth Reference Number I was eligible for assistance with moving costs, bond and the first two weeks rent, so that’s a load off my mind.”
Mr Page also advised cultivating a good relationship with landlords or rental agents, “as good references were essential”.
“My rental agent was great, so I would say always try to stay on good terms and they will be able to help you too,” he said.
As Mr Page preferred to move closer to his five-year-old son in the Latrobe Valley, he was open to moving from Wellington Shire, and hopes to settle into his new abode within days.
Welfare agencies say COVID-19 has crushed rental affordability in regional Victoria, with the availability of affordable new housing for low income earners at its lowest level since 2000.
Anglicare Vic’s Rental Availability Snapshot report analysed 33,710 Victorian rental listings from March 27, 2021, and found that fewer than half the number of rental properties were available in regional Victoria compared to the same time last year.
Anyone in urgent need of somewhere to stay should phone the state government’s 24-hour statewide toll free number to get help.
People who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or escaping family violence can speak with a housing and support worker by phoning 1800 825 955 — 24 hour, statewide, toll free number.
The state government also provides a website at services.dffh.vic.gov.au/getting-help for information on where to find help.