Short, animated films helping newly arrived migrants navigate rental market

In Victoria, it's hoped simple in-language videos will help new arrivals overcome challenges and confusion associated with securing a rental property.

Short, animated films could hold the key to demystifying a sometimes confusing process. The productions discuss the process of searching for a property, dealing with real estate agents and requesting maintenance when problems arise.

Law Baw Doe is a housing worker with settlement agency AMES Australia, and says the issues confronting migrants are many and varied.

“No rental history, language barrier - of course - the market as well and the price," Mr Hoe said.

Mr Hoe was instrumental in finding a rental property for the Shashy family who fled Iraq with just the clothes on their back when Islamic State arrived in their home city of Mosul just over two years ago.

They spent time as refugees in Jordan, before seeking refuge in Australia. Nurse and mother-of-three Eman says the prospect of finding a house was intimidating.

“I know some conversation of English but I don't know how I find a house, how I speak with anyone, how I find a house so difficult for me,” Ms Shashy said.

Fortunately for the Shashy family, their landlord is reliable and honest, but issues encountered by other migrants prompted the Victorian Government to launch the series of on-line videos in four languages which are available through the state's Consumer Affairs website.

Catharine O'Grady from settlement service AMES Australia helped create the short-animations, and says they outline tenants' rights, responsibilities and even the steps required to request maintenance and repairs.

“They can access it repeatedly in their own language and understand simple steps that they can take to ensure they meet their obligations and the landlord's meeting theirs as well,” she said.

Cesar Melham
Victorian MP for Western Metropolitan region, Cesar Melham, at the launch of the animated videos.

Property lawyer Denis Nelthopre says the videos will also help migrants deal with unscrupulous agents and landlords who often view ill-informed tenants as a "soft-target."

“And then when they start to ask for repairs they're threatened with eviction so they can be mistreated right from the beginning - they're often very scared to challenge authority,” Mr Nelthorpe said.

For some migrants, like Say Htoo Eh Moero, who came to Australia via a refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border, even the prospect of living in a brick home was foreign.

“Give the bamboo and leaves for the roof, and the walls to make a very small house and they don't have to worry about signing contract or anything they just build their own house,” she said.

So, for the Shahsy family - and many like them - securing a simple rental property represents the very first step in their new lives.

And 25-year-old Eman says she feels truly "at home" for the first time in as long as she cares to remember.

“I feel safe in first thing and I feel I am happy because I can start my life with my family,” she said.