Darling, it hurts at 30 Darlinghurst Road

A collapsed ceiling in an apartment at 30 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point. Photo: John Moyle.

By JOHN MOYLE

EXCLUSIVE

Some 40 residents have been left homeless or scrambling to find accommodation in a rapidly shortening market after alleged abuse of tenants at a Potts Point property owned by one of Sydney’s largest developers, The Sentinel can reveal.

The property, a converted backpackers, is at 30 Darlinghurst Road and is part of the grand Iris Capital development, otherwise known as the Bourbon development.

It was until recently heavily promoted for short to long term leases in an area with an acute accommodation shortage. Rents ranged from $275pw for an 18 sqm room to around $350pw for larger rooms.

Plans for the development call for the demolition of the entire site from 18 Darlinghurst Road (Blake’s Pharmacy) to 32A Darlinghurst Road (the Empire Hotel) to build two new hotel sites, hotel accommodation, various street-level retail spaces and 52 apartments.

Notices to vacate by 17 May due to impending demolition were delivered to tenants earlier in the year.

By that time, the premises at 30 Darlinghurst Road, formerly known as the Deluxe Backpackers, had become severely damaged by water, with the entire seven floors and around 40 apartments affected by mould and damp, in addition to claims that rubbish was not being removed.

The agents concerned are Richardson and Wrench Elizabeth Bay, though The Sentinel will not be naming the managing agent for the property.

Seventy-three-year-old Harry Wong moved into the premises in October 2020 and thought the agents would take care of the place – but found that by Christmas 2021, there was a build-up of rubbish that wasn’t removed until three days after the break.

Rubbish at the rear door of the property. Photo: John Moyle.

“Before then, my relationship with the agent was quite good but once I told them that I intended to leave early, he got quite upset with me,” Wong said.

“They told me before I move I must clean and everything must be done properly and they suggested a cleaner I could use and so I started cleaning myself.”

Wong was paying $300pw and had a $1200 bond.

A spokesperson for the Tenants’ Union of NSW said: “In circumstances where a premise is about to be demolished, it is unlikely that the landlord can demonstrate both appropriate mitigation for their loss, and any substantial cost associated with damage undertaken by a tenant.

“Where there are no plans for anyone else to live in the property … there is no compensation due.”

Wong, meanwhile, said: “The wall next door has a hole in it and I hope that I don’t get blamed for this.”

Writing to The Sentinel in March, the president of Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Conservation  Society, Andrew Woodhouse, said: “When I inspected a week ago it was dilapidated, run down.

“The odour, the mould and damp was at dangerously high levels and the building is a public safety hazard and general uninhabitable.

“The residents have been complaining about the mould and damp for at least six months,” he said.

Another former tenant, Kane Russell, feels he was mistreated and bullied by the agent after he informed them he was vacating.

In February, Russell wrote to the agent, “As you are aware, the building 30 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point is soon to be demolished to make way for a new development.

“The building is in a state of significant disrepair with rodent problems, a severe cockroach infestation, electrical problems and leaking issues.”

Inside an apartment at 30 Darlinghurst Road leased by Adrian Dicken. Photo: John Moyle.

Russell said there was also, “an odour at the ground level entrance … and the rubbish at the near rear of the building made for a really pungent smell”.

The agent allegedly replied that he wanted three weeks’ notice and said: “You need to ensure that it is cleaned thoroughly, otherwise it will have to come out of your bond.”

Russell told The Sentinel: “The agent said that I hadn’t done a full clean and he insisted that rather return the keys on that Friday, I had to arrange for cleaning over the weekend and return the keys on the Monday, which incurred a four-day cost to me.”

In response to questions from The Sentinel about bullying tactics from agents, the Tenants’ Union of NSW spokesperson said, “Real estate agents are bound by a professional code of conduct and where a renter feels intimidated by the real estate agent due to inappropriate conduct, they can make a complaint to NSW Fair Trading.

“In practice, we know that many tenants do not feel comfortable to make a complaint, as they are concerned about possible retaliation … and agents can have a powerful impact on whether someone can secure a new rental in the future.”

The Tenants’ Union of NSW advice is that renters can seek to have their rent reduced where facilities, services or goods have been reduced or withdrawn by the agent, and that tenants should contact their local Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service for assistance.

In this case one tenant, Adrian Dicken, reached out to the Kings Cross Community Centre for help in relocating into social housing.

Adrian Dicken at 30 Darlinghurst Road. Photo: John Moyle

Robyn Greaves, oo-ordinator, Kings Cross Community Centre, said: “When the water and all the problems started emerging about the building, I went to the Department of Housing and lobbied them on that issue and said that the building should be condemned.”

Greaves was finally able to get Dicken into public housing and is still angry about the way that the City of Sydney dealt with the development application that included 30 Darlinghurst Road.

“You are talking about a building as part of a DA that was getting demolished and not one mention of the tenants at the City of Sydney meeting, to my knowledge.

“Of course they had a moral obligation, I think that the people who passed the DA should have considered the tenants – and as far as the owner went, there was a moral obligation, particularly when the building was in such a bad state, and those remaining tenants should have been relocated.

“I think the tenants have been very badly treated.”

Russell sums up his time at 30 Darlinghurst Road thus: “Now that I am out of the building I feel a lot more healthy and now I understand how depressing it was.”

73-year-old Harry Wong vacating 30 Darlinghurst Road. Photo: Adrian Dicken.

All too often we see wealthy and remote developers level whole swathes of homes, particularly in the inner city, to make room for the aspirational class who have no connection to the local heritage and social fabric.

In this case, Iris Capital has already failed in its first test for being part of the social fabric of Kings Cross and Potts Point.

The grandiose development, dubbed Queensgate, is offering one-bedroom apartments with no views for the bargain price of $1.8 million, stretching up to $16m for a penthouse, well out of reach of the former tenants of the Dickensian 30 Darlinghurst Road.

Richardson and Wrench’s agent did not respond to questions from The Sydney Sentinel.

John Moyle is the associate editor and special writer for the Sydney Sentinel.

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