For the past week, Morgan Besant and his family have been living in a house, but it’s a house they don’t consider a home.
The family was recently kicked out of a house on Robertson Street in Fairfield, following a weeks-long battle with the owner.
It’s a situation Besant, his wife Jade and eight-year-old daughter Ellery never imagined they would be in, in a million years.
It all began in June, when the landlord of the Fairfield duplex the family had lived in for the past 13 years decided to sell. With Victoria’s vacancy rate sitting at roughly 0.6 per cent, Besant knew it would be difficult to find a place to rent that was affordable, could accommodate both his family and his father, who was going through health problems, and was in the same neighbourhood so his daughter wouldn’t be uprooted from her school and friends.
After searching for weeks, desperately trying to find a house that would fit the bill, Besant, a landscaper by trade, met a man who offered to let him stay in a three-storey, four bedroom plus den, 1906 Victorian home he had recently purchased as a holding property in Fairfield.
“We thought this could be the answer we had been looking for,” said Besant, noting there were a number of major renovations that the owner said would be complete by the Nov. 19 move in date.
Shortly after, they signed a lease and Besant packed up his family’s belongings and was ready to move into the home. But on the move in day, he entered the house and was shocked by what he saw.
The house was uninhabitable, according to Besant. None of the rooms were done to completion, the floors of the upstairs rooms had been torn up and only partially floored and painted, there was construction debris both inside and outside the house, there were no fixtures in the upstairs bathroom and the bathtub was in what was to be his daughter’s room.
“I was shocked with the condition,” Besant said.
Besant moved his father’s belongings into the shed on the property, as well as his plants, while his family moved into a friend’s place until the renovations were to be complete.
A few days later, Besant met with the owner, who served him an unofficial letter, which said since the family didn’t move in on the agreed date, and did not pay him rent or a damage deposit, that constituted a break in the tenancy agreement and that the tenancy had ended. However, when Besant signed the initial tenancy agreement, he said the owner assured him he didn’t have to pay a damage deposit until 2017.
For now, the family is staying with a friend in Fernwood and has plans to move into a neighbour’s house, who’s going on vacation for a week-and-a-half. They’ve looked at dozens of houses in the last week, but haven’t found anything they can afford.
Besant hopes his story will act as a cautionary tale to renters hoping to changing their living situations.
“It’s a bit of a warning to others to think very hard about this situation and where they’re currently in, in terms of what the prospects are out there,” Besant said.
Besant plans to take the owner to arbitration and apply for an order of possession for the house to allow them to move in.
An online fundraising campaign has since been started by a friend to support the family. As of Monday, more than $3,300 has been raised.
For more information about the campaign visit youcaring.com/jadeandmorganbesant-697995.