Most rental housing is too cold in winter, but record vacancy rates, combined with higher electricity costs, mean tenants have limited room to escape unsanitary conditions or demand improvements.
Tenant advocacy organization Better Renting, in a report published on Thursday, calls on the government to act on minimum energy efficiency standards for rentals, including efficient heating and ceiling insulation.
An investigation found homes in New South Wales and South Australia were so substandard that it was generally colder inside than outside.
Better Renting worked with 59 representative “tenant researchers” across Australia to track temperature and humidity.
A high proportion of rental homes had average temperatures below the healthy minimum of 18°C, which has been recommended by the World Health Organization as a safe indoor temperature in winter.
Katie (above) said she can’t afford to heat her rental home in Melbourne, despite being on a median income, because it is not energy efficient.
Melbourne resident Katie, who asked that her last name not be published, was among the researchers and the maximum temperature recorded in the 29-year-old’s home was 18.5C, while the median was 12.9°C.
She and her partner have been renting in Coburg North for almost a year and Katie said their self-catering home was getting so cold she was getting cramps.
“We are trying to move at the moment, but given the state of the property market it is a very difficult and quite a lengthy process,” she told AAP.
The house had maintenance issues, including a leaking roof, mold in the bathroom, poor insulation and a plumbing problem.
“It’s so frustrating because I’m a median income, I have a job, I have a college degree, I can pay the bills and I still struggle to heat my house,” Katie said.
“When even someone as lucky as me is struggling, it indicates that this is a huge problem.”
Many tenants are turning their heating down completely to save money, while still struggling to pay high rents.
An investigation found homes in New South Wales and South Australia were so substandard that it was regularly colder inside than outside.
“This winter, tenants did not have enough electricity to heat their homes, in more ways than one,” said spokesperson Joel Dignam.
“In homes that are poorly insulated and drafty, you have trouble reaching a decent temperature, even if you run a heater.”
But tenants, fearing eviction, remain silent about their cold homes and their mold problems.
“We need to see action on minimum energy efficiency standards for rentals,” Mr Dignam said.
“This must be complemented by measures against unfair evictions and rent increases, so that tenants do not have to fear reprisals every time they speak out.”
Some governments have made changes and others have been asked to follow suit.
Victoria and the ACT have introduced minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties. Since March, Victoria has needed energy-efficient heating in the main living area.
But ACT landlords are circumventing the requirements by listing as ‘unknown energy efficiency rating’ or ‘this property does not meet the minimum insulation standard’.
Tasmanian tenants were living in some of the worst conditions, with temperatures below 18C for more than 22 hours a day. The report reveals that the average median temperature was only 14°C.
Tenants like Katie (above) are calling on landlords to install energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and improve insulation.
The Tasmanian Tenancy Act requires heating in the main living area, but there is no requirement that it be energy efficient and affordable.
Leanne Pilkington, vice president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, said most landlords would be happy to upgrade heating and cooling and suggested tenants gather information and contact their property manager with a plan. improvement.
“This is a great reminder for any tenants looking for cooling upgrades to prepare for what we expect to be a hot summer, to contact your property manager now and start the conversation,” Ms Pilkington said .