Performing the ‘good tenant’
Renters in homeowner societies like Australia, the United States and United Kingdom occupy a complex moral landscape, maligned for failure to achieve homeownership but pivotal to the value of investment properties. Identification of ‘good’ and ‘risky’ tenants is an important landlord practice. We investigate how tenants conceptualise and perform the ‘good tenant’ through research with 36 single older women renting in greater Sydney, Australia: a cohort on the margins of secure housing. The good tenant demonstrates responsibility through paying rent on time and property stewardship (reporting repairs, making home). However, these practices are made necessary and risky through limited tenure security. The emotional and financial risks attending performances of the good tenant drive paradoxical relations; a good tenant is also acquiescent and silent, not reporting property repairs or lapsed leases to avoid rent increases and/or evictions. Variegated performances of the ‘good tenant’ reflect cultural property norms and valorize the investment function of housing yet could also productively unsettle tenant-landlord relations.
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Australian Research Council