Renters spend 45% of their time in homes above safe temperatures
Renters spend 45 per cent of their time in homes above safe temperatures – Image: Pexels and Pixabay
  • Rental homes in Australia often reach unhealthy temperatures due to poor energy efficiency and high energy costs, with temperatures above safe levels 45% of the time
  • Renters report physical and mental health impacts from excessive heat and stress due to the combined pressures of the cost of living
  • The report calls for government action to ensure rental homes meet minimum energy efficiency standards, and improve the health and wellbeing of tenants.

Renters across the country have been struggling through another hot Australian summer, with a new report revealing that tenants are spending 45% of their time in homes above safe temperatures.

The report from Better Renting has highlighted the issue of excessive heat in rental homes, with three states, NSW, Queensland and Tasmania, recording maximum indoor temperatures above 40°C over the summer months.

The report also revealed that renters were reluctant to use cooling appliances due to high energy costs or were unable to cool their homes despite using fans or air conditioners.

Better Renting Executive Director Joel Dignam said the report showed how the higher cost of living was forcing renters to put up with unhealthy temperatures.

“Everyone needs a healthy home. Governments have a responsibility to act so that renters can afford to keep their home at a healthy temperature. This doesn’t just mean another pre-election cash splash, it should mean introducing minimum energy efficiency standards to ensure that rental homes are decent to live in.”

“When your rent and your energy costs are going up, one thing people cut back on is cooling. But when you’re in a substandard home, this means suffering in excessive indoor heat. Even in this milder summer, we saw worrying indoor temperatures. As temperatures, energy costs and rents continue to go up, governments need to act to keep renters safe in their homes.”

The study tracked temperature and humidity in 77 rental homes across Australia and found that indoor temperatures exceeded 25°C for more than 10 hours a day and exceeded 30°C for just over an hour a day.

Renters Struggle with Excessive Heat

The report also highlighted some of the issues faced by individual renters from across the country.

Shasha, a renter in NSW said, “My unit has very large windows so in summer the rooms get boiling. There is no roof insulation so the temperature and humidity outside is not far from what we feel inside. Heatwaves are really tough especially with my chronic pain, and with really poor insulation.”

While Alex from WA said, “One of my interior bedroom walls can hit over 50c by 9am on a warm day. I hang blankets from the picture rail to block some of the heat, and it looks about as chic as you’d imagine.”

The report highlights the physical and mental health impacts experienced by renters in substandard homes, including struggles with the combined stresses of heat and cost of living concerns.

Older renters hurting

National Shelter CEO, Emma Greenhalgh, echoed the calls to improve the energy efficiency of rental homes, stating that “the retrofitting of existing dwellings is critical for the health and wellbeing of tenants.”

Rising heat is a particular challenge for older renters in public housing, according to Awhina Kapa, Older Persons High Rise Worker with Victorian organisation cohealth.

She said “Our residents are using local pubs and pokies to get relief from the heat at night. We are seeing these residents struggling to pay for necessities such as toilet paper, bread, and milk due to feeling the pressure to spend money while inside these venues. Residents are also putting themselves in danger by walking home by themselves when these venues close early morning.”

“In the past, residents have been able to use the community rooms in their buildings for relief from the heat, as they are the designated cool spaces. However, housing officers lock these rooms at 9pm every night. Some of these designated cool spaces do not get opened at all leaving residents to fend for themselves during heatwaves.”

Government action needed

According to the report, improving energy efficiency in rental homes and ensuring that renters are protected from unsafe temperatures should be a government priority.

Emma Greenhalgh said, “people should not have to live in unacceptable and unhealthy housing because that is all that is available.”

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