Time to end the trauma of no grounds evictions

Zuzia Buszewicz • 06/03/2024

Eviction without reasonable grounds causes profound distress. That is my immediate conclusion after reading the responses we received to our recent survey on no grounds evictions and renting in NSW. This blog provides a peek into the emotional toll no grounds evictions have on renters, and you can expect a full report on the survey findings to be published very soon.

Renters who shared their experiences of eviction come from different areas and range in age and family unit composition. The majority told us they have been severely emotionally impacted by being asked to leave their home for no reason. The results make it clear that having the rug of relative housing safely pulled from under your feet by a ‘no grounds’ eviction notice causes real distress, even leading to anxiety episodes and bouts of depression.

I still have nightmares almost every night that we will be evicted again. I suffer frequent panic attacks.

Many of the evictions described by the renters came as an awful surprise; either after years of steady harmonious occupancy or only months into what was meant to be a long-term lease. 

I had just gotten settled into what I believed would be a long term rental. I had to move again, save for another bond payment, and search desperately for a new rental.

Person on a bike riding past a poster with the words 'time to end no grounds evictions'
Time to end no grounds evictions. Source: Joel Stylis, Unsplash.

The survey clearly shows the financial strain an unexpected relocation has on renters, as evidenced in our 2022 report Eviction, Hardship, and the Housing Crisis. Many reported taking time off work to manage their housing situation, physical injuries from moving their belongings without the professional help of removalists and taking out loans to afford cleaning fees and bond payments.

We can not afford the bond cleaning. Or moving expenses. So we are now behind on rent which now impacts us getting approved for a rental. It was very stressful, we knew we had limited time to find something. There was a lot of competition, looking for a new place was like having a second job. It consumed all our spare time.

Among the stories shared, there is also a recurring theme of personal relationships damaged or ending due to the stress and compounding difficulties faced by people facing eviction.

I was devastated as the owner had previously advised we would have the house for as long as we wanted. (...) having to leave our beautiful home, our relationship disintegrated.

Our 2019 report Lives Turned Upside Down, documented how no grounds evictions cause major disruption to people's lives. They change the relationships people have to their home, the law and their agents and landlord. The results of our recent survey further confirm this. Many of the entries submitted mention loss of work, the challenges of moving children to new schools and the difficulty finding a home during a rental crisis. Some people reported fearing homelessness as they approached their eviction notice periods running out before they found a new place to live.

Stress, anxiety, constant fear of being homeless. I felt so much closer to the possibility of being homeless since I got evicted under no grounds.

It has caused me terrible stress, anxiety and severe insomnia as I worry whether I will be able to find somewhere to live before I have to move out. Terrified of being made homeless.

Throughout the stories, the reports of lasting emotional scarring by the experience of eviction without cause stand out the most. Renters surveyed reported feeling permanently unsettled by the event and fearful of it happening again, even after years of stability.

[I] feel like it has made me really worried about our security in our current rental home. We've been really lucky and we're still in the same house a few years later that we moved to. But I'm always worried an eviction can come at any time. It's outside of our control. I definitely worry about 'annoying' my landlord with repair requests. I hate how it makes me feel so concerned and so powerless all the time about my home. Very unsettling!

This backs up growing evidence of a need for 5-6 years of stability in order to ensure the mental health of renters is in the same range as owners.

Worryingly, some pointed out that many renters now expect to be evicted without reason at the end of a fixed term. But why should eviction without cause be accepted as normal in a functioning rental system?

My adult son still today has anxiety and fear of becoming homeless again. His lease expires in 2 months and he is talking about "when he gets evicted" like it's normal...

These and many other similar stories are the reason why the Tenants’ Union of NSW and other community organisations have been standing up for renters’ rights and specifically for an end to unfair no grounds evictions for many years.

We need the NSW Government to bring relief from the trauma of no grounds evictions. Decision-makers are currently considering their approach to eviction reforms. A year ago they committed to ending no grounds evictions; we are asking them to follow through on this commitment – for all renters. Please join us in writing to them now.

Read stories from renters who have suffered no grounds evictions on the Make Renting Fair site.