Next year the ACT government will begin implementing a minimum ceiling insulation standard for rental homes. We know that renters are suffering due to rental rate increases and cost of living pressures, including hugely inflated energy prices. Renters live in homes that are generally of a lower standard than owner-occupiers and our research shows that renters are vulnerable to the health effects of an excessively hot or cold property. At the same time, landlords have little incentive to improve the energy efficiency of a rental home, as they don’t pay the bills. Up to 40% of the heat in a home is lost through the roof, so it makes sense that the government has decided to focus first on ceiling insulation by introducing minimum ceiling insulation requirements for rental homes beginning on 1 April 2023.
A lot of properties in Canberra already have ceiling insulation. The problem is that not all insulation is created equal, insulation is rated according to its 'R value'. The standards will require those with no insulation or below R2 insulation to be upgraded to at least R5 insulation. The government estimates that around 60% of rental properties meet the standard or are exempt from the standard, and that if your house was built after 1997 (lucky you!) it likely meets the standard.
Beginning 1 April next year and whenever a lease is signed after that date, rental providers have 9 months after the signing to bring the property up to standard (provided they are not exempt). From the same date, advertisements for rental properties must disclose whether the property is compliant with this standard or is exempt. The phase-in period ends on 30 November 2026, by which point all existing rentals must comply, and any new rentals must comply within 3 months.
Relevant changes to the Residential Tenancies Act:
- There are expanded rights of access for rental providers to ensure compliance (checking current insulation or installing insulation) but tenants must be given 1 week notice and the access time must be reasonable.
- Tenants can take lessors to ACAT where the lessor has made a false or misleading statement about the compliance or exemption or when the lessor does not ensure the property complies with the standard within the prescribed time period.
- ACAT has the power to make orders for rent reduction, financial compensation, termination of tenancy in case of the above.
What you need to do
Right now, nothing. If you are on good terms with your landlord and you want to ensure that your property meets the standard before the coming winter, you could consider contacting them to ask them if they want to get the jump on the changes and upgrade the insulation before there’s a rush.