Many Canberra renters are suffering through heat waves and cold snaps or paying through the nose to heat and cool properties that have been described as glorified tents, with a new analysis showing that four in 10 rental homes have the lowest-possible energy efficiency of zero.
Better Renting, a new lobby group for renters, compared advertised Energy Efficiency Ratings for properties for sale and for rent through January and February. It found that 43 per cent of rated rental properties had a rating of 0, compared with just 4 per cent of properties for sale. More than one in two advertised for sale properties had EERs of 5 or greater.
Better Renting conducted the analysis as part of its Comfy Homes campaign for minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties, and has launched a petition calling on the ACT Government to act.
Better Renting Director Joel Dignam said Canberra renters were being left to suffer in the worst properties on the market.
“This report shows that almost half of renters are living in glorified tents that do virtually nothing to keep inhabitants safe and comfortable through summer and winter. This means higher power bills, worse health, and avoidable climate pollution,” he said.
The report said that in a property with an EER of 0, it would cost roughly $1800 a year to achieve the same thermal comfort as an equivalent property with an EER of 2.
It said a NZ study found that insulation retrofits resulted in reduced hospitalisation and fewer GP visits, while a Scottish study found reducing cold, damp, and mould in flats resulted in reduced blood pressure and medication use.
Mr Dignam said the first step was to change the Residential Tenancies Act, which had already happened in Queensland.
“Queensland has updated its Residential Tenancies Act to allow minimum energy efficiency standards, and New Zealand requires landlords to install ceiling insulation, but in the ACT, renters are being left out in the cold,” he said.
“We’re looking for quite modest changes, we don’t think every rental property should necessarily have solar panels, but things like insulation in the roof, like 80 per cent of owner-occupied properties already do, making sure they’re not draughty and the wind doesn’t blow through, are quite cheap, low-hanging fruit that will make a big difference to renters’ lives.”
Mr Dignam said the analysis drove home the need for Government action.
“It’s clear that landlords are not acting themselves to make rental properties energy efficient,” he said.
He rejected suggestions that imposing minimum standards on landlords would push up rents, saying renters were already paying the costs of inefficient rental properties.
“Landlords are running a small business in effect and should be made responsible for making sure people in their properties can live safely and affordably through winter,” he said.
“Private renters don’t have control over their properties, and landlords don’t have an incentive to improve energy efficiency so that’s why there is a need to see these standards in legislation.”
The current Parliamentary Agreement between Labor and the Greens included energy efficiency for rental properties as a key priority, but progress had been too slow, Mr Dignam said.
Mr Dignam, who has a background in the community and campaign sectors, said there was growing need for renting to change, with more people renting than ever before in Australia and for longer.
“These people don’t have the sorts of protections that homeowners have. We think it’s time that that renters in Australia get a better deal,” he said.