A new study has found that surging energy costs have become the latest problem for Australian tenants living in accommodation with “brutal” conditions over the winter.
The Cold and Costly report by the tenant advocacy organisation Better Renting measured temperature and humidity in over 70 rental homes across Australia through June and July and found that the temperatures in those homes fell below WHO’s safe threshold of 18°C (64°F) most of the time.
The report’s findings prompted the organisation to call on the Australian government to protect tenants by introducing minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties.
“Renters told us about getting sick more often, about a constant state of worry over energy costs, and an unending battle against mould and damp,” said Joel Dignam, head of advocacy group Better Renters.
In addition, many tenants had problems with the insulation of the properties they rented.
The report mentioned that Australian homes were not built to cope with winter cold, which resulted in lower indoor temperatures in winter than in much colder countries that were better at weatherproofing, insulating, and heating their homes.
As tenants are unable to make modifications to the homes they live in, rental properties tend to have worse energy performance and cause renters to spend more energy on heating than equivalent owners.
“Many of the homes in this study were so substandard that even when people chose to run their costly, inefficient heaters, they were still unable to get warm,” the report said.
Poor Rental Housing Conditions Across Australia
The report also pointed out that there was a connection between cold temperatures in substandard housing and health problems such as higher blood pressure, reduced immunity, more intense asthma and greater incidence of mental illness.
“The data paints a frightful picture of the brutal conditions people are facing in their homes,” Dignam said.
According to the study, indoor temperatures in rental properties across Australia were below the minimum healthy levels 74 percent of the time.
In contrast, owners living in energy-efficient homes only recorded temperatures below 18°C less than five percent of the time.
Among the jurisdictions, New South Wales had the highest average humidity, with 83 percent of recordings above 60 percent, which resulted in the ongoing mould problems in many rental homes in the state.
Meanwhile, Tasmanian renters reported the greatest amount of time below 18°C at 91 percent, or over 21 hours per day.
In comparison, rental properties in the Australian Captial Territory were colder than anywhere else, with average minimum temperatures of between 7.4°C and 7.5°C.