Through the summer of 22/23, Better Renting observed renters' experiences of heat in their homes. We recruited eighty ‘Renter Researchers’ from across Australia to install temperature tracking devices in their bedrooms. Unlike a mere thermometer, these devices record temperature at intervals, creating a detailed record of the temperature changes and patterns observed in rental homes. In addition, we obtained qualitative data from Researchers, through surveys and interviews, helping us to understand observed temperature patterns and gain an insight into the human impact of high indoor temperatures.
You can find our work from summer 21/22 here.
New report 'Sweaty and Stressed' finds renters in excessive heat 45% of the time
Despite a cooler summer, higher energy costs mean that renters in substandard homes are still spending plenty of time in too-hot temperatures, according to a new report from tenant advocacy organisation Better Renting.
- Better Renting worked with 77 ‘Renter Researchers’ to track temperature and humidity in rental homes across Australia.
- Rental homes reach unhealthy temperatures as a matter of course. Indoor temperatures exceeded 25°C more than 10 hours a day, and exceeded 30°C for just over an hour a day.
- Renters reported physical and mental health impacts from the combined stresses of heat and cost of living concerns.
Renters in substandard homes have been struggling with the heat despite a cooler summer, according to a new report from tenant advocacy organisation Better Renting.
Today Better Renting launched their report, Sweaty and Stressed, based upon a study of temperature and humidity in 77 rental homes across Australia. They found that temperatures were above safe levels 45% of the time, with three states, NSW, Queensland and Tasmania, recording maximum indoor temperatures above 40°C. Many renters were reluctant to use cooling appliances due to high energy costs, or were unable to cool their homes despite using fans or air conditioners.
Better Renting Executive Director Joel Dignam said the report showed how the higher cost of living was forcing renters to put up with unhealthy temperatures.
“Everyone needs a healthy home. Governments have a responsibility to act so that renters can afford to keep their home at a healthy temperature. This doesn’t just mean another pre-election cash splash, it should mean introducing minimum energy efficiency standards to ensure that rental homes are decent to live in.”
“When your rent and your energy costs are going up, one thing people cut back on is cooling. But when you’re in a substandard home, this means suffering in excessive indoor heat. Even in this milder summer, we saw worrying indoor temperatures. As temperatures, energy costs and rents continue to go up, governments need to act to keep renters safe in their homes.”
Rising heat is a challenge for older renters in public housing according to Awhina Kapa, Older Persons High Rise Worker with Victorian organisation cohealth.
“Our residents are using local pubs and pokies to get relief from the heat at night. We are seeing these residents struggling to pay for necessities such as toilet paper, bread, and milk due to feeling the pressure to spend money while inside these venues. Residents are also putting themselves in danger by walking home by themselves when these venues close early morning.”
“In the past, residents have been able to use the community rooms in their buildings for relief from the heat, as they are the designated cool spaces. However, housing officers lock these rooms at 9pm every night. Some of these designated cool spaces do not get opened at all leaving residents to fend for themselves during heatwaves.”
National Shelter CEO, Emma Greenhalgh, echoed the calls to improve the energy efficiency of rental homes.
“The significant increase in rental costs combined with the higher costs of energy and food means that people are making very difficult decisions right now about how to spend their limited incomes. Households are forgoing essentials such as food or medicine, or deciding to not cool their homes on very hot days because they are concerned about their next utilities bill. Also, very low vacancy rates give people little choice about the quality of their housing because the focus is on being able to have a roof over their head.”
“Both scenarios should not be happening in Australia. People should not have to decide about whether they pay for housing or healthcare or food. People should not have to live in unacceptable and unhealthy housing because that is all that is available. It is critical that we see the retrofitting of existing dwellings for the health and wellbeing of tenants.”