Neil Hoffmann owns seven rental properties in Launceston, Tasmania. Around five years ago, he received a call from the Migrant Resource Centre (Northern Tasmania) in response to an advertisement he had placed in the newspaper for a property. “We discussed the possibility of renting it to a refugee family,” he recalls.
Just prior to that a real estate agent had mentioned to me that there was this market for rental properties. We said yes, and we had a good experience.
Neil now rents four of his properties to newly arrived families from Burma and Bhutan. “Originally I think we came from a philosophical base, you know, we were certainly happy to give them a chance,” says Neil.
But there has also been an economic advantage. The competing market for us is university students. We can rent out single rooms to students and actually get more rent that way but it’s higher management. The Bhutanese and Burmese people that we have had in our places have been long term, and all have been exemplary tenants. I can’t speak highly enough about their care for property. They’re fantastic.
When Neil now has a property available for rent, his first thought is to contact the Migrant Resource Centre. “And I happily recommend this to other landlords, it’s a good market,” he says.
The depth of appreciation shown by these people is palpable. We get invited to family celebrations to meet new babies, and the families often want to share their cultural food, which isn’t a common thing in a landlord-tenant relationship. It’s a sign of their appreciation.
The positive relationship that has developed between Neil and his tenants has caused him some concern that, if one of his properties was to be sold, “it’s going to feel uncomfortable to push them out”.
To this end, Neil has discussed the possibility of selling his property to existing tenants, considering that rent and home loan repayments in this market are similar:
So that’s where there’s an interest in selling to them, if they want to, and if it can be negotiated. For this to happen they would need to have an advocate.