Renters’ voices : the lived experience of young adults renting in Wellington City : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
In this research project I explore and give voice to the experience of rental life for a group of young adults aged 18-25 years, renting in the private rental sector (PRS) in Wellington city, New Zealand (NZ). In the current economic climate, renting has become increasingly unaffordable, with insufficient supply creating a pressured market, extremely difficult for tenants to navigate. This study, based on an ontological and epistemological foundation of critical realism, and using reflexive thematic analysis (RTA), explores rental life for 14 participants through focus group interviews. It considers ways an asymmetric power imbalance in landlord/tenant relationships plays out in the lives of tenants. How landlord/tenant power dynamics influence the ability of participants to obtain security and a sense of home within their rental housing, with ongoing implications for mental health and wellbeing. It also considers how participants respond to their relative powerlessness with resistance and through strategies to maximise success. Four main themes and 10 subthemes were produced. The participants experienced ongoing high levels of difficulty and stress. They did not consider their rental properties to be homes although considerable evidence of home-making practices was evident. A lack of security, autonomy and agency within their rented dwellings could be seen as eroding their sense of home and wellbeing. In response participants formed strong bonds with each other, their lack of security in housing apparently compensated for by security in each other, and the emergence of a nomadic urban culture. The power imbalance in landlord/tenant relationships frequently resulted in conflict around maintenance and repairs. Participants chose carefully which battles to fight, frequently avoiding conflict. A high level of mobility was evident as a strategy for avoiding conflict and achieving better quality housing. Fixed term tenancy contracts while considered normal created major difficulties for participants. The Tenancy Tribunal was used in cases of serious difficulty, and some incidents of everyday resistance were evident, however, open resistance to landlord power was absent, a mark of the powerlessness of tenants in a system which relies on tenants to police it, while being simultaneously vulnerable to landlords through their need for positive tenancy references.
Renting, Young Adults, Power, Home, Resistance, Strategies