22 July 2019

Renters bubble wrap windows as Canberra shivers through winter

| Lachlan Roberts
Join the conversation
Canberrans are using bubble wrap on windows as a new form of insulation. Photo: George Tsotsos.

Canberrans are using bubble wrap on windows as a form of insulation. Photo: George Tsotsos.

Renters in Canberra are taking unusual measures to keep their house warm and keep their energy bills low during the bitterly cold winter months as a new report finds a staggering number of rental properties have the minimum energy efficiency rating.

30-year-old Cameron Van-Lane and his three housemates in Dickson have taken to bubble wrapping their windows in their Dickson home to keep the winter chill at bay.

Mr Van-Lane said the chill in the house led the group to be willing to try any measure to stay warm.

“Our house has a reasonable heating system and we run the heating in the morning and evening but it is an expensive heating system to run and as soon as you turn it off, the house quickly loses its heat and gets cold again,” Mr Van-Lane shared.

“Because it is an older house, the windows are single-paned, there is no insulation and there are gaps around doors. We have tried to fill up the gaps with tape where possible.

“The idea of bubble wrapping windows was introduced to me recently and I have tried it in my bedroom and it has made a difference. We are now looking to do that in some other communal rooms around the house.”

Mr Van-Lane said bubble wrapping his windows had never crossed his mind before but the practice was straightforward and nonobtrusive.

“Some people take issue with the fact that you no longer can see through that window or it might be an unappealing sight from the outside,” he shared.

“In our particular house, we have done it to windows that are not facing the street and aren’t particularly functional as it is. Moving from Brisbane to Canberra has been a bit of a rude shock and I spend most of my days and nights in down jackets just to stay warm.”

According to a new report from advocacy organisation Better Renting, more than 43 per cent of Canberra’s rentals have an energy efficiency rating of zero.

The report titled Baby it’s Cold Inside: Energy Efficiency Ratings in the ACT, reviewed over 19,000 real estate advertisements and found that over two in five rental property energy efficiency ratings were zero.

The report analysed 8,228 real estate advertisements and 10,796 rental ads between July 2018 and June 2019, finding that one in twenty ratings for properties for sale had a zero energy efficiency rating.

A zero star rating means “the building shell does practically nothing to reduce the discomfort of hot or cold weather”.

Better Renting has been running a campaign called Healthy Homes, asking the ACT Government to introduce minimum standards for rental properties, which executive director Joel Dignam said is essential to address the gap in energy efficiency standards.

Mr Dignam said the report’s findings send a shiver down renters’ spines.

“People who rent in Canberra are practically living in another world: a world of cold, draughty homes, that cost you money and make you sick,” Mr Dignam said.

“This report is an unwelcome confirmation of the fact that people who rent are missing out and being left to shiver through winter in the worst properties out there.

“People who rent are doing what they can to stay warm, but they can’t solve this problem. The ACT Government needs to make sure that landlords take responsibility for ensuring that their properties can be kept at a safe and healthy temperature in summer and winter.”

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Armand Delacroix8:34 am 27 Jul 19

I and others in my complex live in worse conditions. We rent ACT housing properties through St Vincent De Paul. When I moved in I was forced to spend over 18 months without a heater of any kind. It had been removed by previous tenants and vinnnies never bothered to replace it. Our windows have cracks and/or holes in them, are extremely thin single pane glass from the late 70’s, there are holes in walls, floors etc and despite numerous requests over the last 3 years no maintenance has been carried out by St Vincent De Paul. They take over 1/3 of our disability pensions and give us nothing in return. We are expected to just live in conditions where the interior of our flats has been known to reach below zero.

Forced? What, you couldn’t buy a heater from Gumtree?

Just wondering. How is it known what the energy rating is if it’s zero? Zero is the default until the property is actually rated and certified. Could just be unrated properties that aren’t actually zero. Most of those zero rated rentals are probably knock-downs just earning their keep until they are worth, um, knocking down.

Anyone would think that landlords are actually making money. The way the system works is the landlord makes a loss, that they claim as a tax deduction, until they sell the place and make a capital gain. So until they sell it there’s no cash to make improvements and then when they sell it there’s no reason to. The next owner is now doing the same.

But landlords can be quite a dishonest mercenary bunch too. There was a case where a tenant reported a hot water system failure. For several days they were showering in the neighbours bathroom. The landlord installed a new system in their own home and their old tank went to the rental, and no doubt the new system was claimed as a tax deduction.

Agree with the sentiment that landlords can leave a lot to be desired.

But in the example you gave if the landlord did that then they are pretty stupid. Because hot water heater replacement needs to be depreciated over 12 years. It just wouldn’t be worth the cost to do what is suggested.

If the owner permits, tenants can make improvements.
I’m sure they wouldn’t go as far as installing batts etc but curtains/drapes or the strips that prevent draught.
However my best advice to tenants – live within your means. If you want a house that has a better EER rating, look for something newer further out of Inner City living. But if you want something that you can jump on the tram in Lyneham, its commonsense that the house is probably atleast 35+ years old when the advances for energy wasn’t around.

Maybe instead of Better Renting, there should be a group set up to better educate tenants.

It not just private rentals that are not energy efficient. Residents of public housing are having the same issues with heating and cooling.

liberalsocialist8:27 pm 23 Jul 19

Susan Allin – that’s so true! We’ve tried to get people to quote for re-insulating our home, and they’re not interested. Even a well known window company out behind Fishies Bike store wasn’t interested in replacing 22 x windows with double glazing (so probably looking $40K plus).
They’re too busy dealing with the very easy, quick new-build homes. That’s cheaper and requires less skill and drama than remove/ repair/ reinstalling.

Bubblewrapping Windows is actually a very smart idea that uses the same principles as double glazing for reduced heat losses at a fraction of the cost.

Well done.

Well, they are free to buy their own house and spend tens of thousands of dollars to make it warm….

Otherwise we can enact laws that force people to perform major renovations on rental properties, and await the whining about the large increases in rent to cover the costs. If you think property investors are just going to wear the cost themselves, rather than pass it on to tenants, you’re a touch naive. These ideas are doing wonders for the “Rental affordability crisis”.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.