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Environment, Property Real Estate

Temperature data shows rental homes barely habitable in summer

Better Renting 4 mins read

Rental homes had an average indoor temperature of 25°C and experienced two hours a day over 30°C according to a new report, ‘Cruel Summers’, from tenant advocacy organisation Better Renting.

  • Better Renting tracked temperature and humidity in 109 rental homes over summer.
  • Renters in NSW, NT, Queensland and WA had an average median temperature above 25°C.
  • Across Australia, homes were hotter inside than out about 8 hours a day, typically being over 3°C hotter indoors when it was hot outside.
  • One participant in the project required ambulance attendance after suffering vertigo, vomiting and panic attacks due to heat and humidity.

Audio grabs are available here.

Renters sweltered through unlivable indoor temperatures this summer, according to a new report from tenant advocacy organisation Better Renting, as a tight rental market left renters putting up with neglected repairs and substandard properties during record heat. 

Better Renting worked with 109 renters to track indoor temperatures in rental homes as part of their ‘Renter Researchers’ citizen-science project. They found that renters across Australia were experiencing median indoor temperatures of 25°C, meaning that homes were above this level 50% of the time. Queensland, WA and the NT were much higher still. Overnight conditions were just as hot, making it difficult for renters to sleep virtually all of the time. 

Better Renting also analysed outdoor temperatures, finding that in NSW, the NT, Queensland and WA homes were hotter than the outdoors over one third of the time. In NSW for example, it was hotter outdoors 42.5% of the time: in such times it would average 25.4°C outdoors, but 28.4°C indoors.

The report, 'Cruel Summers', argues that while many renters struggled with the heat, access to better quality housing or lower cost-of-living pressure could both contribute to more bearable conditions. But for renters in poor-quality homes and under financial pressures, the heat could be life threatening, with one Renter Researcher even requiring ambulance attendance during the study period.

Jessica Buckland, who rents in the ACT, was one renter who took part in the project. She lives with her four-year-old son in a home with no shading. Although her home has air conditioning, she avoids using it due to the cost, unless her son is home. 

"The house has a poor build quality and no external shading. Our bedrooms are west facing so they are brutal in summer. We have decent rubber-backed curtains but it’s still unbearable with them closed all day; we need a fan at night to sleep as there is no AC anywhere but the living area. The fans are a pain because space is tight.

"The house is unbearable without AC or fans in the peak of summer; it will be hotter inside than out. I often push my comfort a lot further when I’m home alone than I would if my son was home. I don’t think twice about turning the AC on when he’s home but I’ll go without when it’s just me. I’m nervous about the power bill.

"We are also having sinus issues due to sleeping right next to a fan, it’s drying us both out, blocking my little one’s nose. Also, our allergies are quite bad despite having an air purifier thanks to the lack of sealing around windows and doors."

Better Renting project officer Sabrina Clarke said that the challenges renters faced reflected both substandard homes and a tight rental market.

“What we heard from renters is that people know their homes are too hot, and they don’t have the power to fix it themselves. A lot of people, if they can, are getting out, they’re going to a shopping mall or a cinema to try to get cool. But in a rental market like this one, people just take what they can get, unfortunately. Renters are worried about asking for more, because they fear eviction or homelessness. Even basic things, like getting an air conditioner repaired, can be more than a renter is willing to ask for.

“The effects of this really ripple out through a person’s life. You can’t get any sleep, because your home is too hot overnight. You’re exhausted, you’re fatigued, you don’t want to cook at home because of the heat, you don’t want to have friends over because you know your home isn’t a nice place to be. Fear of the next electricity bill is creating even more stress. And through it all, you’ve got this sense of powerlessness, because you know one wrong move could mean you lose your home.”

Better Renting Deputy Director Bernie Barrett said the report pointed to the need for action to lift the standard of rental homes.

“Everyone needs a healthy home — governments should require landlords to make changes so that rental homes are fit and healthy to live in through summer. Simple changes like ceiling insulation, fly screens, or cooling appliances, can help reduce the danger from extreme indoor heat. Renters who have been facing record increases should, at the very least, have a decent home for them and their children. Victoria and the ACT have already acted here — other jurisdictions need to step up.

“But we also see this common fear of retaliation. Which is no surprise: in many jurisdictions, a renter can be kicked out without the landlord needing to provide any justification, and renters fear this retaliation. Jurisdictions should be ending unfair ‘no grounds’ terminations, so that renters have some chance of advocating for themselves. In particular, this reform is long overdue in NSW, where the new Labor government promised it before the last election, but is yet to deliver.”

Currently, only the ACT and Victoria have minimum rental standards related to energy performance, with Victoria planning to expand existing standards this year to cover ceiling insulation and cooling appliances. The Federal Government has also been funding energy performance retrofits in social housing through the Household Energy Upgrades Fund.

Audio grabs are available covering the report's key findings, a snapshot on regional renters, and those in NSW, Queensland and WA.



Contact details:

Case studies are available for interviews in every state. For case studies, please contact Joel Dignam, Better Renting: 0402 182 389


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