Kat's Story Part 3: her landlord might get annoyed

This is Kat's Story Part 3. Click here to read Part 1, or Part 2.

Kat wonders whether it would even be legal to expect people to live like this in other parts of the world. In Europe, she says, "it would be unbelievable to have a house like this without double or even triple glazing, even in old buildings. You have rights."

Having lived in homes with proper insulation, Kat can easily identify the problems in her current home. As we walk through her house she shows me the gaps letting in draughts, the single-glazed windows making her bedroom cold, and the air vents letting in cold air.

I've found people who rent in Australia sometimes are't aware of the reasons their homes are so cold -- probably because many of us have learned over time to accept living like this. It can be hard to know where to start if we want to make ourselves a bit more comfortable at home.

Kat has already tried a few things to fix these issues and make her home more energy efficient. She has stuffed cotton wool into the large gaps around her back door and secured the door shut with wire. There was no handle when she moved in. There's also a broken window in the laundry which she has tried to cover with plastic.

Finally, Kat shows me her attempt to solve a strange problem in her kitchen - a 'meat safe' built into the kitchen wall. A meat safe is a small, ventilated cupboard which was used to store food before refrigeration. I've never heard of a meat-safe being in the wall, though. It is a passageway through the wall cavity, the size of a shoebox, and covered by mesh at either end. This means air is constantly flowing into the house - I can see through the passage to the backyard outside. Kat has secured a bit of foil over the mesh to try to stop the airflow. 

Some of these solutions don't seem as effective as they could be. The meat safe is still letting cold air into the house because the tin foil is only loosely attached to it. Kat knows it's ineffective. She tells me she was trying to find a solution that didn't involve using sticky tape. If the paint chipped, her landlord might get annoyed and take her bond or kick her out. 

I am shocked. Kat is freezing in a house that hasn't been maintained or repaired in decades, but she’s worried about being punished for using sticky tape on the walls. However, I understand her concern. It's a disturbing, yet everyday reality. People who rent often feel so insecure in their homes they won't even put blu-tack on the walls.

However, as Kat's 'MacGyvered' solutions show, there are many ways to make your home easier to keep warm in winter. 

I show Kat a few more renter-friendly things she can do. We stick weatherstrip tape around a window frame to seal the gaps. Instantly, the room is quieter. I show her how to use gap filler rod to temporarily block the wall vents letting air and mice into her house. I give her a hand sticking bubble wrap to her bedroom window to insulate the glass. We also attach a seal to the front door to stop the draughts flowing under the door. 

I leave Kat with a few more materials to finish these projects, and instructions for how to do more. We're both very excited to see the difference we can make.

Read Kat's Story Part 4: making a house a home