A report released today from a tenant advocacy organisation Better Renting has revealed Australian renters are experiencing unhealthy heat levels indoors during summer.
The organisation conducted a study during the 2021/22 summer and recorded temperatures in 50 homes across the country. The study found indoor temperatures in rental homes exceeded above 30 degrees celsius on average for an hour a day, which is outside safe living limits.
Better Renting is calling on governments to create legislation that increases safety and living standards for renters, making life more tolerable, especially as the climate changes.
Renter Nicholas Piva, 21, from Perth’s southern suburbs, says not having an air conditioner and tolerating the heat has a negative impact on his well-being.
“It’s extremely frustrating, especially in the summer. It makes you feel very sweaty and very overwhelming.”
Mr Piva says the heat is most irritating at night time when he’s trying to get some rest.
“I honestly cannot sleep properly in the heat, so I always wake up feeling really groggy and end up going to university extremely tired,” he says.
The Better Renting report states: “Around 20 per cent of renters reported a diagnosis of a mental health condition, compared with 13 per cent of owners.”
Mr Piva believes air conditioners should be provided to all renters.
“I have had to invest in buying a fan and cheap portable air-con that wastes a lot of electricity. There’s not much more I can do.”
Senior researcher scientist Lucinda Coates has experience in analysing the effects of heatwaves, and says these events affect the most vulnerable the most.
“They are a very social hazard as it seems to impact those in lower-income brackets or those who can’t afford to rent houses with air conditioners, first,” she says.
Miss Coates believes air condition cooling systems should not be provided for free to all renters, as it would have a negative impact on the climate and power grid.
“It would be lovely for everyone to have air conditioners, but what happens when everyone puts theirs on? There’s a big drain on the power generators, which is already a problem on extremely hot days.”
However, she does believe living standards for renters can be improved to deal with heatwaves.
“Rentals should at least be supplied with ceiling fans, which are pretty effective, and new buildings should be built to withstand extreme weather better,” she says.
A spokesperson for the Department of Communities, which is responsible for managing tenants in Western Australian state housing, says: “Air conditioning units are not provided as a standard inclusion in public housing in Western Australia due to the associated costs.”
The spokesperson stated the government is committed to improving living standards of tenants by making more state housing available.
“The McGowan Government is focusing on its $2.1 billion investment towards expanding the supply of public housing across Western Australia.”