New Report: November Heatwave made Rental Homes Uninhabitable

Preliminary data from a citizen-science project tracking temperatures in rental properties found that the recent heatwave in Perth caused unlivable temperatures in many homes.

Rental homes were above 30°C for 37% of the time on average from November 22 to 25, and above 25°C for almost 100% of the time. Guidelines from the World Health Organisation indicate that health effects from heat become apparent with indoor temperatures above 25°C. 

In a survey to accompany the temperature tracking, renters described the effects of the heat. Many struggled to use their home and had to avoid upstairs spaces or cooking. Sleep became impossible. And the heat took a toll on physical health and mental health, with one renter describing how they passed out from heat exhaustion. 

Better Renting Executive Director, Joel Dignam, said the report was a wake-up call. 

“Before this Summer even began, renters were suffering from substandard housing in a heatwave. Temperatures were routinely outside healthy limits, making people sick, in the words of one renter, ‘sucking the life out of me’.”

“It’s essential that everyone has a healthy home, that can keep them safe during a heatwave. Rather than downplay the serious mortality risk from extreme heat, Premier Cook should introduce minimum energy performance standards for rental homes. Too many renters are at risk in hot weather because of the WA Government’s neglect.”

Jacob, who is taking part in the research project, recorded a maximum temperature of 32°C in his home. He said that the heat made it harder to use the upstairs part of his home.

“During the heatwave, it was difficult to be in the upstairs part of the house, which meant that it was difficult for me to use the study and work from home. We had the blinds shut constantly, meaning that it was always dark, dreary, and depressing.”

Kath Snell, Shelter WA, also shared her concerns about the results. 

“These results are devastating – particularly this early in the season - and confirm what many WA renters already know too well:  that they are roasting in their homes, in sometimes unbearable conditions.  Not only this, but they’re also often too scared to raise the issue with their landlord for fear of eviction.  This has to change. We are living in with of the richest states in the world, and letting so many of our fellow WA residents suffer.”

“These findings strongly reinforce the need for minimum standards in all WA rental homes, which should include things like insulation, ceiling fans, and fly screens as mandatory and would mean the home is easier to keep cool and comfortable over our long hot summers.  We live in a state where the temperatures in summer are often unpleasant, and can be dangerous, we must accommodate for that.”

“WA’s rental stock is the least regulated in Australia, often as hot inside as they are outside.  The good news is that three basic and common sense changes – insulation, fly screens and ceiling fans - would dramatically improve not only the comfort of a home, but a tenants’ physical and mental wellbeing.”