Renters are feeling the heat

Article published 9 March 2023

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AS the east coast is experiencing record high temperatures over the past week some are feeling the heat much more than others.

A Better Renting research report released last week measured temperature and humidity in 77 renters’ homes across Australia over the most recent summer.

A safe, healthy indoor temperature is generally no more than about 24 degrees. After this, it can start to cause health problems including dehydration and respiratory issues. And if you already have health conditions the heat can lead to serious flare-ups.

But according to this report, temperatures were above healthy levels 45 per cent of the time over the summer.

The temperature got as high as 51.8 degrees inside one home and the maximum humidity recorded was 96 per cent. Not only does this level of humidity make it feel much hotter than it already is, but also could lead to a whole range of other issues, including mould.

Keep in mind that these temperatures were recorded over the most recent summer that was pretty mild all things considered. Temperatures fell below the average for the most part, so a typical Australian summer would be even worse.

These findings were backed up by the Australian Council of Social Service’s 2023 Heat Survey. This survey was open to people receiving an income support payment from Centrelink.

It found that not only did 97 per cent of respondents avoid doing certain activities because of the heat, but also that the heat negatively affected 89.4 per cent of people’s health. The cost of air-conditioning made it hard for 83.2 per cent of people to afford their energy bills.

Why are some people finding it so hard over the summer?

In most states, there are no regulations for the quality of rental properties. Since renters aren’t able to make significant changes to their homes, this means that many are putting up with roofs that have no insulation, windows that aren’t properly shaded and inefficient or no cooling appliances.

Even if there is a functional air conditioner, it would have to run all day and night to combat the summer heat in these poorly insulated homes. This isn’t an option when money is already tight and electricity bills continue to grow.

Renters deserve to have safe, healthy homes. To do so, we need a national mandate on minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties to keep people cool in summer and warm in winter.

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