Real estate agents accused of re-listing properties at higher prices as rents rise by more than $500 in some suburbs

<span>Photograph: Darren England/AAP</span>
Photograph: Darren England/AAP

People looking for rental homes say properties they are applying for are being taken off the market before being re-listed at higher prices.

On 24 April, Linda, who did not want her last name used, applied for a property in Yeronga in Queensland, for $530 a week. The inspection was busy, so she did not think she had much of a chance, but three days later she received an email from the agents incorrectly stating that she had withdrawn her application.

“Then I looked at the ad and saw they had increased the rent price and were holding another inspection.”

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The property is now on the market for $560, which is $120 more a month than it was first advertised at.

The agents were contacted for comment.

Linda said the price change was “disappointing” and if she had known she would not have bothered to look at the property.

“I had to take leave from work to attend the inspection as it was quite far from my office,” she said. “The inconvenience and time taken to attend and apply was a complete waste.”

The chief executive of the Tenants’ Union of New South Wales, Leo Patterson Ross, said they had been seeing properties increasingly re-listed at higher prices.

“In some cases, it means someone has made an [higher] offer and the owner has done the transparent thing and updated the price,” Patterson Ross said.

“With others, it seems there isn’t necessarily an offer that’s been made, but they just realised that, if 100 people came to the inspection they can probably up the rent.

“It’s driven by this out-of-control market at the moment where owners and the agents are realising that they can increase the rent very rapidly.”

Australia’s rental crisis continues to bite, with new Proptrack data showing rents have soared as much as $600 per week over the past year in some suburbs.

The median house rent in Rose Bay increased $625 to sit at $2,000, Vaucluse increased $500 to reach $3,000 and Clear Island Waters in Queensland increased $400 to $1,400.

For units, Haymarket in Sydney increased $210 to reach $900, Main Beach in Queensland increased $200 to sit at $750 and Darling Point increased $200 to $1,050.

In the top 20 increases across both houses and units, 13 were in Sydney, six were in Queensland and one was in Melbourne.

In April, just 16.2% of rental listings nationwide were under $400 a week.

Another prospective tenant in Queensland, Monique, who did not want her surname published, said she had viewed a property in Broadbeach that was advertised at $420, only to be told during the inspection that the price had been increased to $575.

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Monique said the agent told her that the manager had put the wrong price in and that she needed to fix it.

“I had been emailing with her that morning and the day before and she never made me aware until I was at the inspection and then changed the ad to say $575 after I had left,” Monique said.

“I was just in shock, I loved the place but $575 was out of my budget. It hurt.”

Anthony Ziebell, an administrator of Don’t Rent Me, a Facebook group set up to help tenants, said this topic “frequently arises in our Facebook group discussions and tenants often express their frustrations about it”.

Rental bidding is already considered illegal in certain Australian states, and it’s likely that it will continue to be prohibited in more regions,” Ziebell said.

“However, re-listing rentals at higher rates is a crafty workaround used by some real estate agents to circumvent these regulations.

“It’s crucial for policymakers to address this issue effectively to protect tenants from these unscrupulous practices during the rental search process.”