landlord fixing things
arielle richards [supplied]

It Happened to Me: My House Had No Shower For Two Months and It Made My Life Better

After I found the courage to ask our elderly landlord to fix the shower, her middle-aged son came over and ripped it out instead.
Arielle Richards
Melbourne, AU

I am a 28-year-old in a rental crisis who cares about two things: cheap inner-city rent and not living in a sharehouse. A gnawing fear of being fucked by a rental increase drives me to willingly ignore unsavoury living conditions. As long as I can live where I want without being plunged into rental stress I don’t really give a damn about the mould, rats, or whatever horror my home throws at me.

So, last year, when my friend moved into the house I’d lived in for 12 months and began asking me to ask the landlord to fix the litany of “issues” I mostly pretended not to notice, I was incredibly uneasy. 


There was the basketball-sized hole in the kitchen floor; The water-damage-or-termite-issue rupturing the wainscotting in the hall; The two-inch gap between the living room wall and the slanting floor; and the shower… the floor of which had erupted to form a little mountain in the centre. This caused the water to flood into a bath and leak out of a hole in the grout and trickle across the sodden wood floor. It was fine, really.

Sure, the shower thing was disturbing. Sometimes after a two-minute rinse I’d squat and watch the river of water flow out of the shower’s base and into an unused internal heating vent. I admit I liked the shuddering horror of it all. It was so dramatic. There were cobwebs all through the house and no insulation, which left it 10 degrees colder inside than it was outside in winter. It was inverse during summer, naturally. “It’s indoor-outdoor living”, I’d crack. But I didn’t want a rent increase. 

We had a good thing going. My house is $2000 a month for a two-bedroom cottage in a desirable inner-city neighbourhood, with a porch, garden, shed and an attic. Damn-near luxury at the price my peers pay for a glorified rat cage or a decent room in a 5-person sharehouse. 

And one Monday in late November, the landlord’s son came over to finally “have a look at the shower”.

After he’d left, I went to take my usual post-work rinse and was met with disaster.

Shower, gone. Walls, gone. Just sodden floating floorboards sagging under the weight of the ceramic bureau. He’d just ripped the entire thing out. Jesus fucking christ! 


What remained of the floor sloped into the place where the shower had been, which was bare earth. The walls, naked of tiles, were black. I couldn't tell whether it was mould or dirt, and I didn’t want to know. And there was some kind of husky plant or insect matter or God knows what littered around the grit. A thick, damp scent oozed out of the room. I closed the door and tried not to think about the portal to despair behind it.

landlord fixing things

it was like this for two months

Now, I’m a shower fan, averaging two-a-day and three if I’m feeling dirty. I had also just embarked on a dating binge and had 4 lined up that week. One by one, as the days came and went with no shower in sight, I cancelled them. I couldn’t have foreseen it, but I would not shower in my own home for another 2 months.

What happened during those 8 weeks is a blur. Life took on a day-to-day survival aspect. I lived shower-to-shower, taking them wherever I could – the pool, my parents’ house, gracious friends.

On hot days, the house smelt like a rainforest, the exposed earth releasing unnerving wafts of once-dormant, primaeval matter into the air. 

But it honestly wasn’t that bad. For there are showers everywhere for those with eyes to see. 

I took up showering under the hose in the backyard, one with the plants et cetera…  an ethereal nature fairy… a hot and sexy adult woman who eschewed the conventions of bathing and chose to shower herself with Aesop body wash in the garden under ice-cold water. As God intended. 


“Summer” in Melbourne was grizzly, grey, rainy, with the mornings barely clearing 18 degrees. I fucking hate cold water as much as I loathe being cold. But I became a better person for it. The sharp thrill as the water collided with my skin, the smell of wet dirt, my bare ass out to the breeze, taking in the sky and the trees – it was chic, really. 

An outdoor shower, I’d romanticise to myself as I juggled the hose with one hand and scrubbed with the other, people pay good money for this shit.

It isn’t clear why it took a full 2 months before we had a shower. Once we negotiated we wouldn’t pay rent until we got one, the bathroom magically began to appear. The final piece, a shower screen, was installed the night before rent day. 

There isn’t any lesson to glean from this. Except, maybe, it was worth it. You really ought to demand the space you pay to live in is liveable.

I’ll never take a shower for granted in my life. And, going without drove me to invent opportunities to find showers, like a last-minute decision to attend Meredith music festival, where I met my boyfriend. By a nauseating stretch I could conclude I have my incomprehensibly inept landlords to thank for my relationship. But mostly, I’d like to thank myself for coping.

Arielle Richards is the multimedia reporter at VICE Australia, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.