'Stuck here forever': Rental crisis in Mandurah as vacancies hit 12-year low

Hopeless situation: Karen Lucas is currently trying to move due to her unsafe home, but rental demand is so high she is struggling to find a new place. Photo: Supplied.

Hopeless situation: Karen Lucas is currently trying to move due to her unsafe home, but rental demand is so high she is struggling to find a new place. Photo: Supplied.

Mandurah is in the grip of a rental shortage and for people like Karen Lucas, that means being trapped in an unsafe house, unable to move.

Ms Lucas has been desperately trying to find a new home for the past six months, without success.

According to Ms Lucas her home is infested with mould and has rotting walls, but after numerous unsuccessful attempts to get the problems fixed through her house provider, her only option is to move.

However, in the past couple of months demand for rentals has skyrocketed in Mandurah, with more people looking for accommodation than there are houses to rent.

Professionals Mandurah property manager Danielle Clark said she had never seen so few properties on their books in the nearly 10 years she's been in the role.

"We cap groups to 10 per viewing because of COVID safety and many of our viewings are at tenanted properties, so we need to respect the privacy of our tenants, but we only show a property once or maybe twice before it's snapped up," Ms Clark said.

Ms Lucas said she attended a recent viewing with 65 other perspective tenants and discovered there were already 39 applications submitted.

"A month ago, it was pretty reasonable, but recently I went to a home open and there were 65 people and 39 applications already on the property. It's unbelievable," she said.

This issue isn't just affecting Mandurah, it's a trend being seen in Perth and around the state. According to REIWA the Perth rental market's vacancy rate has dropped to 1.6 per cent, which is the lowest it has been since March 2008.

In July, there were 3,553 properties for rent on reiwa.com, which is 50 per cent less than what was available in July 2019 and it is creating competition among prospective tenants.

"There are a number of factors that may have contributed to lowering the vacancy rate, such as the lack of new supply due to investors staying out of the market, expats returning back to WA and investors selling their investment properties," REIWA president Damian Collins said.

Local property managers put the increase in demand down to WA's border restrictions.

Acton Mandurah's Bianca White said: "Borders are tight, which is fabulous for us, but the feedback I've been getting is from a lot of eastern-staters who are moving here because of quarantine measures and they want to bring their families over. Also, there are WA expats from other states wanting to return home at the moment."

Local property managers have also noticed people willing to offer above the asking price on properties and an increase in rental prices.

"Quite a few people are doing that [offering above the asking price] to secure a property," Ms White said.

"I'd say over the last two months we've seen an increase of between $20-50 per week on rentals. It's all supply and demand."

Ms Lucas is currently paying a low rent due to renting through a community house provider, so higher prices are another hurdle for her.

Ill health due to the mould at her current house, according to her doctor, has meant Ms Lucas can't work, so the situation is a difficult one.

"If I can't find a new rental I'll have to stay in this mouldy house and my health will continue to deteriorate. I feel absolutely hopeless. I'll be stuck here in this mould-ridden house forever. I feel I've hit rock bottom," Ms Lucas said.