Terminated: The COVID rental challenge is on

TIME TO GO: Finding a new rental is tricky in COVID times. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK.
TIME TO GO: Finding a new rental is tricky in COVID times. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK.

It's the letter you never expect but is always lurking as a possibility when you are a renter: The termination notice.

As someone who has been renting on and off for almost 20 years, I've been on the receiving end of a few of these and they are normally terribly formal and to the point.

Something about your landlord's circumstances have changed, so it's time to pack your bags and find a new set of digs. Please be out by the following date (usually 90 days).

When it's just you, or you and an equally scruffy flat mate, a shift to a new location can be fairly easily handled.

Back in the day, I happily bounced from house to house with minimal fuss.

Moving a household of kids and the huge flotilla of goods they have accumulated, however, is a major undertaking. (And, if I'm going to be honest, I have as gained goods exponentially over the years as well - how many sets of muffin trays can one person need?)

It takes on a whole new level of stress in a time when COVID-19 has sent the rental market just mildly bonkers.

In my area, vacancy rates have fallen drastically since COVID arrived, plummeting since December 2019.

According to data on residential vacancy rates from SQM Research, since bottoming out at a vacancy rate of about 0.02 percent towards the end of 2020, it has since held steady at 0.04 percent.

Back in 2016, people around me could have the choice of approximately 60 available rental properties at any one time, now that number is less than 15.

That is total, without taking into account the relevant considerations of numbers of bedrooms, allowance of a pet or (in the case of Mrs Bucket's sister Violet) room for a pony.

It is a trend that is reflected in many semi-rural and rural areas, with a decrease in vacancies since the start of COVID-19 restrictions in many markets.

According to SQM, one of the few markets to see an opening up in availability was - you may have guessed it already - the Sydney CBD rental landscape.

In a recent reflection on population growth hotspots around the country, the Regional Australia Institute stated people in the major cities were realising the opportunities of life in regional areas, which had been coupled by people choosing to stay in the regions rather than moving to the city.

The ability to work from home for many people, and the comparative house prices, resulted in regional Australia, especially beachside getaways, to become an attractive option that need not wait for retirement.

I appreciate that. Of course I do; I've lived all my life in regional areas and intend to go on doing so.

So how to proceed?

I've house-hunted before but not in conditions such as these.

For every house on the market, there is likely to be a healthy amount of interest in it.

It's time to do the rounds of the real estates, keep my ear to the ground and find our next (forever?) home.

Wish me luck.

This story Terminated: The rental challenge is on first appeared on Newcastle Herald.