Overseas students rarely challenge landlords

Source: The Age

Many other students ‘pushed around in tenancies’.

When Yu Mao moved out of a rental property in Oakleigh she thought recouping her bond would be simple enough. But she was shocked to discover her signature on a claim form relinquishing most of the bond.

Ms Mao, who was an international student when she moved in, insisted she never signed the form. So she took it to police for analysis.

‘‘I had been trying so hard to prove I didn’t sign it,’’ she said.

The police analysis found her signature had been forged but was unable to determine who had written it.

Ms Mao has since become a permanent resident but said international students rarely spoke out about unfair treatment in their housing arrangements. ‘‘I don’t think they know there is a way to complain.’’

And the Council of International Students Australia says exploitation of foreign students in the rental market is rife.

The council’s public relations officer, Mohamed Ehsan Ebrahim, urged universities to ‘‘reach out’’ to students and help protect them from unfair situations. ‘‘A significant number of students have been exploited in the private rental market,’’ he said.

Withholding bonds was among the main problems.

Ms Mao said international students often left their tenancies without demanding their bond because they wanted to get home for their holidays. ‘‘Everyone is trying to leave the country as quickly as possible,’’ she said.

Ms Mao said the real estate agency she had dealt with agreed to return her bond after the police investigated.

Tenants Union of Victoria policy worker Mike Williams said international students rarely challenged their landlords.
‘‘Many international students are just pushed around in their tenancies,’’ he said. ‘‘Often they just don’t stand up for their rights.’’

He urged students to seek advice on their tenancies if they felt they had been mistreated. But few international students sought help from the union.

Hadi, who left Germany to do a PhD in Melbourne, never imagined he’d end up on the street when he moved into a house in Frankston.

But hoped speaking out about his sudden eviction would highlight the exploitation of international students in the rental market.

Hadi said in September he signed a contract that said he would mow the lawn and clean and maintain the house instead of paying rent.

Hadi, who did not want his surname published, said the landlord later demanded $150 a week. He said he agreed to pay $60 a week, but negotiations broke down.

Early this year, Hadi was walking outside his Dandenong workplace and found all his possessions dumped there.

He said a colleague handed him an eviction notice that had also been dropped off.

‘‘I went down to the garage and saw the other colleagues were laughing at me,’’ he said.

Hadi spent the night on a Swanston Street bench before crashing at a backpackers’ hostel in St Kilda for three weeks.

He recently challenged his eviction in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and won $1408 in compensation when the rooming house owner failed to appear.

The owner declined to comment.