'Landlords get away with murder': Jordan van den Berg

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Renter advocate Jordan van den Berg recently appeared on Network 10's The Project, where he urged those locked out of the rental market to take up squatting.

This was much to the ire of property investment professionals.

We talk to the man behind the Purplepingers and Shitrentals social channels about his passion for a fairer housing system. 

JordanĀ van den Berg purple pingers rental strike squatters rights

Tell us about your background.

I'm a unionist, first-generation migrant to Australia and an admitted but non-practising lawyer.

I grew up in South Africa and Australia and, ultimately, got very lucky. In doing so, I recognised that not everyone found themselves in such lucky positions and this significantly shaped my worldview.

Growing up surrounded by brothers and sisters who worry about where their next meal is coming from when it's not something your childhood self ever had to turn their mind to doesn't make you think you 'worked hard' for anything, it makes you angry.

I've always had a passion for social justice.

How are Purplepingers and Shitrentals shifting the dial for renters?

Purplepingers is my handle on all social media. It's a username I created in Year 10, and it's something I regret on a daily basis, but something I'll never change.

Shitrentals aims to point out just how unfair our housing system is. It highlights how ridiculous it is that we are paying top dollar to live in rental homes covered in mould and asbestos, and often without a ceiling.

The website is a way for renters to review their rental properties or real estate agents, effectively warning other renters about what they might be dealing with.

Landlords have this ultimate control over who they let into their investment properties, but they don't have to tell renters anything about what they're likely to deal with or what the property is like.

All that renters get are photos that are often a decade old, and a chatGPT-generated description of the property. Shitrentals is a way for renters to use their voice without the threat of eviction.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jordan van den Berg (@purplepingers)

What are some of the most common (bad) behaviours renters have to deal with?

Renters suffer from an extreme power imbalance when it comes to housing, and all of the behaviours that renters experience stem from this issue.

These symptoms most commonly look like: landlords not completing repairs, even if they are legally required. Rentals covered in mould or exposed asbestos that make them dangerous to live in.

I've seen more leaks than Julian Assange, as well as countless rentals in various stages of physical collapse. I've heard many examples of pretty extreme racial discrimination.

In almost every State and Territory, renters experience unlimited rent increases or no-grounds evictions and are forced to find a new place to live on a yearly basis.

Our houses are poorly insulated, heated and cooled. Also, for some reason in Sydney's inner west, landlords can't be bothered to do anything about rats, mice or cockroaches.

Most of these things are unlawful for the landlord to allow in a rental property. However the government consistently fails to enforce its own legislation.

What are the fundamental inequities in the market?

Both contenders for government, the LNP and the ALP, are overwhelmingly landlords. As a result, they have an incentive for housing to be increasingly unaffordable, because it will increase the profits made by their property portfolios.

The fundamental inequity is the power imbalance that renters face. Landlords and real estate agents know they can get away with murder because they'll find another tenant who is desperate to take their place.

Needing a place to live is a fundamental human need. You'll put up with a lot to have a roof over your head.

What changes would alleviate the situation?

We need to acknowledge that housing should not be an investment, but is instead a fundamental human right. This is not an easy conversation to have, and will require us, as a nation, to grapple with the fact the land we live on was stolen.

Before we get to that stage, our housing situation is going to get a lot worse unless we take bold action on things like implementing rent controls, removing the capital gains tax discount, removing negative gearing for investment properties, controlling the invasive species that is short-stay accommodation and building public housing.

You studied as a lawyer. How has this informed your advocacy?

I've always wanted to help people, and I thought that becoming a lawyer was the best way to do this.

As part of my Global Studies degree, I worked in a few law firms overseas and quickly found out that, by and large, being a lawyer is a great way to make rich people more money.

I'm not saying you can't help people as a lawyer - we have thousands of lawyers all over Australia working in community legal centres for very little pay and recognition who are doing the most amazing work.

Studying law taught me noble notions of equality, access and fairness.

Being in the real world taught me that capitalism removed Lady Justice's blindfold and broke her scales, but her sword is pretty big. We use the legal system as a way to punish the poor and every now and then give the rich a very small fine.

What activism do you think would force change?

I think that collective action born from class struggle is incredibly effective, and we've seen it to be effective throughout history.

I think squatting movements and rent strikes are on the cards in the near future, and will definitely force change.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jordan van den Berg (@purplepingers)

How do you earn a living currently?

I'm a public servant full-time. I've worked for the national redress scheme for people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse, as well as the royal commission into defence and veteran suicide, but as a rule I try not to tell people where I work.

What was your earliest money lesson?

You can work very hard and make good money, but there will always be people who work far harder than you who will never see as much money as you.

What was a big financial turning point for you? 

I think seeing the dream of owning our own homes slipping from the grasp of my generation and every generation after mine was incredibly eye-opening.

What's the best money advice you've received? 

I haven't received much advice, but Mum always said to invest in property. Look where that got us!

What's the best investment you've made?  

It's not a financial investment but investing time and effort into the people around me who care about me, particularly my loved ones. The ROI on that bad boy is unmeasurable.

What's your worst investment decision? 

I bought a car named Terrence that broke down every time I looked at it a little funny. That was an expensive mistake, but I was very attached to it.

What is your favourite thing to spend money on? 

Nothing brings me as much joy as spending money on my wife and the people I care about (which, unfortunately for my wallet, is quite a few people).

How would you spend your last $50? 

I would spend it on a dinner with family and friends.

What's the next challenge you've set yourself? 

I want to try help collectivise and organise the renting class.

We outnumber landlords four to one, and we can do some very good things together. United we bargain, divided we beg.

I also want to be able to prove that the work I'm doing is getting results using data. The Shitrentals database has been provided a number of times to government agencies and has the potential to be used to inform policy.

Finish this sentence: money is good for... 

... being "the procurer between man's need and the object, between his life and his means of life. But that which mediates my life for me, also mediates the existence of other people for me. For me it is the other person," as Karl Marx wrote.

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Vanessa Walker is the managing editor of Money. She is a journalist, author and former editor in chief of Houzz. Vanessa has a Bachelor of Political Science and post graduate studies in journalism. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Comments
Annette R
June 1, 2024 9.28am

This guy makes all landlords sound like complete devils. This is far from the truth. Landlords take all the risk when putting tenants in who may trash the place and not pay rent. If we had no landlords and all us Mum and Dad investors sold our properties and invested in the share market, where would the renters sleep. This story was so one sided from someone who lives off the tax payer dollar in a cushy government job, stirring up trouble with his unionist mates.

Eri K
June 1, 2024 7.02pm

Yes. As with every single investment. The holder takes on the risk. You can't expect anyone else to absorb the cost of any other investment!

David Dawson
June 1, 2024 7.26pm

WHY is being a landlord the ONLY service or product supplier in Australia, where the producer is allowed to provide an inferior, defective, run down, worn out, sometimes dangerous product, with barely any regulation or oversight, for a premium price, and then increase that price on a whim, also unregulated!

AND when the consumer complains about an inferior or defective product or service the producer (landlord) is allowed to just snatch the product back, without repercussions!

There is NO other product or service in Australia that a producer is allowed to operate like this!!!

B McPhil
June 1, 2024 9.53pm

If we had no landlords, people would live in the houses that were not being hoarded, or were provided by the government. Hope this helps.

diana isaiou
June 2, 2024 12.17pm

they would sleep in they houses they could buy. Strange but true, the housing market is skewed when you have to be every year, it costs a couple thousand dollars to move, as well as plenty of time. Time that could be better spent! We renters are buying your houses for you, while you reap the profit-we pay the taxes. Clearly there is risk to any investment, the amount of renters who "trash the place, and don't pay rent" is minimal at best. Truly the epitome of privilege is to expect less financially secure folks to fund your retirement. my suggestion is SELL!

Richard Roebuck
June 2, 2024 1.26pm

Sorry to point out the obvious flaws in your argument.

First it is unlikely that if landlords all sold their places that the renters would buy as there is a massive financial difference between the cost of ownership and that of renting (2 or 3 to 1)

Secondly, the only way the landlord doesn't pay tax is to Loose money, in anyone's books that is a loss and best avoided.

No renter is funding a retirement, they are paying for the use of a property, a simple business transaction, claiming otherwise shows you have failed to think for yourself. Do you think you are paying for the bus or train you travel to work in?

Robert Hankins
June 1, 2024 9.45am

Taking only the tenants side is unfair. There are two types of Landlords and two types of tenants. People without big incomes can built some wealth through buying the right properties but the wrong properties can be a nightmare. Some landlords (not us) can forget their obligations to the tenant. They are often wealthy and don't give a stuff. From experience, many tenants are also a nightmare. I disagree that the law favours the landlord. Most property agents are afraid of challenging tenants for fear of disrupting their rights to live in the property. This leaves landlords with lots of repairs after the tenant leaves. Often damage is disguised and discovered after they leave and sometimes you wonder how they actually managed to do the damage. Lets face it, some people are untrustworthy whether they are tenants or landlords. Its hard work putting up with some tenants and if you don't think that, you have obviously have never tried it.

Karen Cormie
June 3, 2024 4.33pm

Here, here Robert. My tenant is great because I am a good landlord. I wish we all had a relationship based upon respect.

Amy Sp
June 1, 2024 10.35am

What an overly emotional and exaggerated story. "Often without ceilings". Please. Agree with the other comment that there are different types of landlords just as there are different tenants. Whilst I've generally had good tenants, the damage with little recourse left by tenants that I've had to pay to repair and the excessive costs of owning a property and the anti-landlord legislation means my two properties are going to be sold. I'll get far better returns and Jess stress and continuous outlay in the share market. Unfortunately the investment houses I sell won't be returned to the rental pool and won't be purchased by first home buyers so there will be less rental stock available for tenants. A common scenario I'm seeing. Draconian landlord laws and high taxation and holding costs is making the rental situation worse. Time the government took a harder look at the causes.

Magnus Verde
June 1, 2024 7.28pm

Are you suggesting that when you sell your investment property, you'll discriminate if a buyer is a current renter or first home owner?

Just because you benefit on the supply and demand chain now, doesn't mean you always will.

You ran the risk of property investment. The problem still lies where a human right is something people monetise. It's as simple as that. Enjoy your shares portfolio with an overpaid cryptobro.

Amy So
June 2, 2024 9.51am

No I won't discriminate on who buys it. I'll sell to whoever gives me the money I want. My point was that the market has changed since I bought, and looking at the area and potential, it will be bought by someone who will make it a holiday home or AirBNB.

Sarah Morris
June 2, 2024 8.39am

"often without ceilings" is no exaggeration my dude. My current housemate moved into a rental at the start of covid that had a hole in her ceiling stretching through the entire bathroom and laundry. This was in the peak of winter. The stove and oven were also broken, so she only eat cold or microwaved food. She lived there for 6 months and the landlords did not fix a single thing the entire time! The house was completely unlivable, but there was nothing she could do except move out and let some other unsuspecting tenant bleed their income into a property falling apart at its foundations.

I understand that tenants can suck and cause property damage as well, but you cannot compare them to the issues tenants face with landlords. There is a very obvious power imbalance, so the consequences and control of the situation will favour the landlords. A fact that is particularly concerning considering the consequences for tenants relate to not having their basic human needs (ie. shelter) met, whereas the consequences for landlords relate to a decreased return on investment. Your struggle is not the same.

cass b
June 1, 2024 11.51am

"If we had no landlords and all us Mum and Dad investors sold our properties and invested in the share market, where would the renters sleep."

"Unfortunately the investment houses I sell won't be returned to the rental pool and won't be purchased by first home buyers so there will be less rental stock available for tenants."

You guys are so close to getting it.

Yes, selling rental properties frees up housing stock and lets first home buyers escape the renting treadmill. That's the whole point.

Amy Sp
June 2, 2024 12.12pm

Except they don't always. AirBNB is far more lucrative than renting out your property to long term tenants. That's, in my opinion, why we have so fewer rental houses.

maree bowker
June 1, 2024 12.00pm

Please fix VCAT because 44 weeks is too long to wait for a hearing. Rental properties are a huge investment so everyone needs rules that are enforceable. There is good and bad in every story but fairness need a place in this argument. When things go wrong we need a robust system to deal with the situation. At present our system is overworked and underfunded.

David Dawson
June 1, 2024 7.29pm

There you have it people. - 44 weeks for a hearing and you cannot actually be evicted without an Order of Possession from VCAT/NCAT - requiring a hearing!

You have an extra 44 weeks!!

Don't move out until the landlord has that Order!!

Gwenda Dawn
June 1, 2024 11.11pm

Pertinent advice!!

Paul E
June 1, 2024 12.21pm

This guy is disgusting and unintelligent. The fact he "studied as a lawyer" says it all. ie. He lives in a fantasy world. Literally everything he advocates for is 100% WRONG and will only make things (including his "plight") WORSE!

The vast majority of landlords are hard-working mums and dads, and in recent years pathetic governments being influenced by left wing moronic advocacy groups and special interest (which are always curiously well-funded) have actually made thing much harder for landlords - ironically this will have the opposite long term effect, ie. as more and more landlords get sick and tired of tolerating disgusting, ungrateful tenants - they'll leave the market or turn to short-term rentals etc and push rents up even higher !

Learn to accept the fact that people who work hard, make smart decisions and can keep on top of their finances are going to own (and control) property and all those who can't do that, will be at the mercy of the market they find themselves in for good or for bad. If tenants don't like being "tenants" then change their lives, make better decisions and become a landlord themselves.

Take personal responsibility for yourselves and stop expecting others to do it for you. People like this are literally "devolving" our species. Made bad decisions throughout your life ? Waste your money ? Don't worry - the government will bail you out and under Jordan's communist regime - you'll be given everything you absolutely have NOT earned and DON'T deserve ! (note sarcasm).

Oh and by the way "Jordan" - the land I own wasn't "stolen" from anyone and making further moronic statements like that makes you appear even less intelligent, pathetic and very likely to have serious consequences for offending people in such a manner.

And speaking of consequences - encouraging people to squat is highly dangerous and likely to see you being held responsible if (and more likely - when) such encouragement results in needless violence when said squatters are forcibly evicted by the owners.

Waldo Waldonni
June 1, 2024 7.33pm

You say the "vast majority" of landlords are 'Mum & Dad' owners. Care to back that statistic up with any reasonable data there turbo? 1/4 of all property owned in Aus is owner by 1% of the wealthiest elite. That's census data btw. So 1 in 4 properties owned in this whole country, are owned by 1%. You're saying the other 3/4 are all Mum and Dad investors? No international investors there? Grow up tiger.

M Ando
June 1, 2024 9.53pm

Couple of quick points:

The housing system clearly benefits those who are already in the housing market, and those who have generational wealth. Making it harder to purchase multiple investment properties shouldn't be controversial. People can invest their money in shares and still make a good return without taking away properties that younger families, without pre-existing assets, could purchase.

Lastly, all land in Australia not owned by Aboriginal groups was very obviously stolen. You or I didn't steal it, but the British across multiple generations did from 1788 onwards. That's factual.

Gwenda Dawn
June 1, 2024 11.17pm

Fantasticpoints, particularly, re stolen land with regard to Paul E's last point- the threat of violence to those squatting in empty houses in a housing crisis.

Joe Blogs
June 1, 2024 10.45pm

This is ironic given your description of tenants being disgusting and ungrateful. A lot of people work hard and aren't in a position to own property. People also work hard and aren't in a position to own property. You pathetic imbecile.

James E
June 2, 2024 12.41pm

Buddy you gotta shake that victim complex you've developed. You're not out there doing the lords work out of the goodness of your heart. Very easy to complain about people being given things (which they're not) while reaping the benefits of government decisions (including left wing governments that you typically and childishly decry) that give you tax breaks and bulwark your investment (which you do). Just take it on the chin and realise you've got it good and don't want others to enjoy it, then you might get some respect for at least being honest.

Roger M
June 1, 2024 12.28pm

That all we need. Another whining socialist Millennial looking to redistribute wealth to satisfy his misanthropic envy complex.

Mitch B
June 2, 2024 11.16am

The irony of this comment when the wealthy have been redistributing the lower class' wealth to themselves for 20 years. Seems your the one satisfying your misanthropy to those not as fortunate as yourself

Rod F
June 1, 2024 1.15pm

"to grapple with the fact the land we live on was stolen."

I was born with no indigenous genes - somehow that makes me guilty of a 200 year old theft from those who do have those particular genes. Yet squatting on someone else's property is apparently OK -Really a bit blinkered isn't it.

Samantha F
June 2, 2024 10.24am

You think the land belonged to no one before you? Yes, squatting in an empty house IS okay, what's not okay is keeping houses empty. Hopefully these squatters protect themselves from you scum landlords.

Noam O'Reilly
June 2, 2024 12.38pm

You're not guilty of directly stealing the land you own, but you are currently profiteering of the theft of that land by the colonial British Empire. Might be time for you to pay your rent.

Jo Paris
June 1, 2024 1.35pm

I strongly disagree with the negative comments about landlords. It's unfair to generalise and criticise all landlords. Landlords have legal obligations to maintain their properties, including annual pest control. Tenants also have responsibilities, such as keeping the property clean and well-maintained. Unfortunately, some tenants cause significant damage and refuse to pay rent, leaving landlords with the financial burden of repairs and loss of income. This is often overlooked and can be very frustrating for landlords. Landlords have their own expenses to cover, including mortgage payments, insurance, maintenance, and other costs. It would be helpful to have a platform to address bad tenant behavior and hold them accountable. It's important to recognize the challenges that both landlords and tenants face. I am surprised that the media, including TV, magazines, etc., has encouraged this self-entitled individual to trash landlords for a story. It wouldn't surprise me if there are a lot of landlords who work at these media agencies. Unbelievable! How about doing a story on bad tenants who get away with murder? To encourage this person who is encouraging renters to squat is unacceptable. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. I hope they squat at your investment properties.

Margaret Margaret
June 1, 2024 3.26pm

How many tenants do you ha ve in your investment properties ?????

Richard Roebuck
June 2, 2024 1.37pm

Not sure how this added anything to the conversation!

tom brown
June 16, 2024 1.45pm

We have entered into the biggest economic and social collapse in recorded History. Many will perish and then there willl be more mepty hoses so that is the good part... One of the bad parts is soon there will be a run on the banks. If you have savings (which most of you do not have these days) Get them out of the Bank NOW... It is going to be UGLY... There WILL be blood on the streets.. wakey wakey people it's close now...

Robert Wigg
June 1, 2024 7.17pm

I have done my numbers several times - re buying a rental home. I am glad I never proceeded.

We need the true story to be told ,we need someone to provide figures on the profit (or loss) on being a landlord in each state. Starting with nil deposit (exclude LMI ), then the knockers will understand the facts.

I however agree that there are landlords that do the wrong things , also there are tenants that do the wrong things.

Can we also get the disadvantages of being both a tenant and a landlord.

Sam D
June 1, 2024 7.30pm

I just came here to see all the landlords whining in the comments. Keep up the good work, Mr Pingers!

Mon Mon
June 1, 2024 8.31pm

Same. So deluded they are throwing little tantrums from being called out and all they are doing is supporting PP stance.

Kym M
June 1, 2024 7.38pm

I am also here just to read the comments from landlords. Lol.

Also can we please stop referring to landlords as "mums and dads"? Why does it matter that they have children? They are "investers" or "property owners" or "landlords" in the context of renting a home to someone. Are childless people not landlords? I don't understand why this qualifier is even being used...

Amanda Ragg
June 2, 2024 8.40am

Exactly! I hate that description, a pathetic attempt at garnering sympathy ~eyeroll~

Richard Roebuck
June 2, 2024 1.31pm

Agreed, about time the media stopped trying to add emotion to the issue.

Tenants are just people and landlords are just people.

What would be great is if we acknowledged the needs of both sides.

Sher Clder
June 1, 2024 9.58pm

Some absolutely exquisite landlord tears being shed here šŸ¤Œ

April C
June 2, 2024 12.02am

Came for the article, staying for the whiney landlords.

Danielle G
June 2, 2024 4.36am

I came here for the comments also and the ignorance and entitlement, wow, yet calling Jordie entitled. Hypocritical much? Those wealthy enough to have an investment property who are having a whine and cry, it's quite simple...don't have an investment property and profit off of those who aren't as fortunate. If I hear one more person say, "Just work hard and you can be a landlord too, stop complaining". It's not that simple. We're in different times, where the cost of living has skyrocketed and wages aren't keeping in line with this. This is also an insult to people who work their butts off. My husband and I were exemplary tenants, who left the property we were in in a better state, yet were treated so poorly by a rude and entitled landlord who wouldn't attend to repairs; the power balance is indeed a joke. I also agree re the 'mum and dad' investors term, implying that investors are all parents. Really? (And exactly, why does that even matter?) Keep up the amazing work, Professor Pingers. Stuff the ignorant haters. (Also, the refusal of acknowledging stolen land reeks of "it's not my job").

Annick M
June 2, 2024 11.05am

Funny about he does not speak about the "good" landlord/ladies like me? Put a PV system on the rental house (my tenants have not had to pay for electricity for +1year), the rental reduction for my tenant whose pay was reduced during covid, the improvements to the property (new hot water system not the pathetic instant electric..), thermal insulation, repaint the whole place before new tenants, redo kitchen, bathroom, change all windows etc.... That's the good bit for them.. And for me, the worry when the rent is 2weeks late but my bank loan is debited and I have little to buffer the difference, the tenant who leaves taking bits and pieces he likes (without never thrashing anything... Most people still seem to have a conscience somehow when you have been good to them)... So receiving lessons from a public servant who never has to worry when his next salary is coming from to pay the banks and feeds is family is just a pathetic joke...

James Sherlock
June 2, 2024 11.24am

I'm a landlord and I try to be a good one when it comes to property condition and maintenance, as well as charging a fair rent.

I get it that not all landlords are the same and that there is a power imbalance Government should enforce laws and the failure to do this results in the need for people to have a voice; I don't have an issue with this.

I assume most landlords, like most drivers, are ok; for everyone who isn't there's Shitrentals. If your a landlord, do the right thing and you won't have an issue.

Stewart Munro
June 2, 2024 12.37pm

I love his videos and he's doing an amazing job

Troy Thornton
June 3, 2024 8.59pm

A misguided public servant who has, a little education in law, and little education in reality, trying to influence public policy. What could possibly go wrong?

Jim Andersen
June 7, 2024 2.54pm

Yet another appalling article from a magazine that has lost its way. You would assume that a financial journal - with the word 'Money' as its masthead - would invite guests with life experiences that could help others to create wealth and build their financial future. But no (and not for the first time), the selection is based on the pseudo social justice antics of an activist who favours ESG philosophy over profit and a budget bottom-line. Jordan is the worst example - a blinkered Marxist-Leninist who despises democracy and a free enterprise market, and ignores the terrible reality of the disastrous failures of socialist government. The beaut thing about history - it gives us clear comparisons. Think North v South Korea. Think about the one-way traffic fleeing from East to west, when the walls came down in 1989.

To Money magazine...please remember your core audience.

Money magazine
Verified
June 7, 2024 4.41pm

Thanks for your feedback. Our interview with Jordan has generated a lot of discussion about an issue that needs to be thought about deeply.

- Money team

Brook Standish
June 12, 2024 3.40pm

What an absolute tossa

He has no idea of how hard people work to obtain a property too rent and the amount that they pay out every year in land tax ,council rates ,water and sewrage rates ,house insurance ,and then theres maintenance and repairs on going !

And you know what if there was a rent freeze i would emediately sell my property, and then the tennants would have to find some where else they have been there for over 20 years .now do you honestly think that government would freeze there land tax ?

I can tell you now that the biggest reason rent is so expensive is because the land tax keeps goin up .

Eg my place 2 bedroom house southern suburbs i receive $23,400. Per year rent . my land tax bill went up over $3500 this year it is now $17.600 and then theres council rates $4000, sew rates $2000 and house insurance $2000 , so do your numbers I'm loosing money but the govt is making $17,600

My weekly rent is $450 if the govt scrapped land tax witch they should i would happilly drop the rent to $250 per week so dont start kicking me or any other land lord start kicking the govt

Oh and by the way if any doesnt beleive my $17600 land tax bill I'm happy to send you a copy .

I'm a tradie and ive worked dam hard to get what i have butt the governments wether they are lab or lib do nothing to help renters or the hard workes think about that .