Australia’s property market has been metaphorically overheating for months, but new research shows that’s also literally the case, with temperatures in rental homes frequently rising above “safe” limits during summer, according to a tenant advocacy group.
- Advocacy group Better Renting found rental properties “routinely exceed safe temperature limits”
- The problem is being compounded by COVID-19 isolation requirements and the current affordability crisis, the research found
- It cited a recent case in Adelaide in which a tenant was forced to leave their home for 10 hours a day to escape the heat
“All over Australia, people are living through temperatures that are often very uncomfortable and very unhealthy,” executive director Joel Dignam said.
The research found that indoor temperatures at rental homes exceeded 25 degrees Celsius for more than nine hours a day on average over the recent summer, “with indoor temperatures above 30C for about an hour a day on average”.
Better Renting said that was about four times the recommended limit, and has blamed what it described as “lax” rental standards for poor cooling options.
“Rental homes routinely exceed safe temperature limits,” the research stated.
“Night-time temperatures were hot enough to impair sleep almost 50 per cent of the time.”
Mr Dignam said that one Adelaide renter had reported having to take effective refuge from their own home, leaving the property for more than 10 hours a day to escape the heat over summer.
“They’d get up in the morning, they’d skip breakfast, they were so desperate to get out of the house,” he said.
“They’d actually prepare all their meals in advance so as soon as they’d wake up they could leave and go to a library and spend the day there.
‘Hotter inside than outside’
Adelaide tenant Shay, who participated in the study and has been a renter for more than 12 years, said she has been getting by without air-conditioning.
“We basically rely on pedestal fans to keep us cool, as well as a wet towel… and we can barely even get a breeze in because we only have windows on one side,” she said.
“There might be a cool change coming through but it will still be hotter inside for days after… so we’re really forced to seek refuge outside.”
Shay said that the problem has been compounded by COVID-19, with people reluctant to head out or those in home isolation unable to seek relief.
“Traditionally, my partner and I would probably go to the movies [to get cool] but it really depends on what the state of COVID is like,” she said.
“During summer, our main tactic is to try to board up the windows and just [resort to] living in the dark. Even turning on the light contributes to the heat — it kind of feels like we’re living in a cave, in that regard.”
Mr Dignam said that, despite a total rental population of eight million, “no Australian jurisdiction has cooling standards” for rental properties, and said that needed to change.
“It’s hard when you can’t make permanent changes — unfortunately there aren’t really strong requirements on landlords,” he said.
He said the situation was being exacerbated by record rental prices tipping the scales further in favour of landlords.
“The offshoot of affordability challenges around buying is more people renting,” he said.