When “home” feels like an oven: Cedar's story

Imagine this: it's the peak of summer in Australia, and instead of enjoying the comfort of your cool, air-conditioned home, you're strategising how to survive the next heatwave in a rental that's stuck in the '70s—literally. This isn't just a hypothetical scenario for Adelaide renter Cedar and their family, it's an annual ordeal.

Cedar and their partner, renters in Adelaide struggling to live with the heat in their rental home.

Cedar, who lives with their partner and their three-year-old daughter, has faced the brunt of Australia's scorching summers in a rental that's anything but equipped for the heat. Their story sheds light on the grim reality many Australian renters face—substandard living conditions, rising rents, and the battle to keep their homes bearable during the summer months.

Over the past two years, our rent has gone up $90 per week, which is pretty significant. In that time, they haven’t fixed anything. We have an aircon that was installed in the '70s that essentially doesn’t work. We have no solid back door, only a fly screen door, so there’s no real way to keep the heat out. We have a hole in the floor under our carpet that we just have to walk around. The hole is in the middle of the hallway that leads to the middle of the house,” Cedar recounts, highlighting a slew of unresolved issues that turn their home into a veritable oven each summer.

The situation has forced Cedar's family into unconventional living arrangements, with the lounge room becoming their seasonal bedroom to escape the heat. “We’ve been sleeping full time in the lounge room towards the start of summer every year for the past three years. The whole rooms are switched over. The couches are in the bedroom, the bed is in the lounge room. We often all wake up quite sweaty, especially because we share one bed between the three of us. During the hot periods it's often 34-37 degrees in our bedrooms, we just can’t sleep in there, especially with my daughter. I get worried about her health and safety sleeping like that.

Cedar's concerns extend beyond discomfort, touching on the health implications of living in such conditions. “We all have chronic health problems. My daughter has had long Covid for 2½  years, she has struggled to regulate her temperature since then. We suffer a lot more from burnout and fatigue. We also get sick a lot more. It makes it harder when we’re sick, when we’re getting the flu 3-4 times each summer, because we can’t go somewhere else to enjoy the aircon, we can’t go to a cafe when we’re sick.

Their story is a poignant reminder of the urgent need for rental reform. As our most recent Renter Researchers report "Cruel Summers" reveals, Cedar's experience is far from isolated. With this summer marking one of the hottest on record, the call for minimum energy performance standards in rental homes has never been more critical.

Cedar's narrative is a reminder that behind the statistics and policy discussions are real people, families who are doing their best to navigate a rental market that often leaves them overheated, overcharged, and overlooked.

For more insights into the challenges renters face and to support the push for healthier, more livable rental homes, explore our full "Cruel Summers" report here.  

If you've experienced unsafe temperatures in your own home, our are suffering from the expense of trying to maintain a healthy temperature, we want to hear about it: take our survey here (closes 30 June 2024).