A new study of Australian rental properties currently underway has already shown how unhealthily cold they get over winter, in an effort to push for better tenancy laws. As someone who lives in Melbourne’s least insulated sharehouse, I can confirm that winter is cooked. Or raw?
The study conducted by tenants’ advocacy group Better Renting tests the temperature inside 70 rental homes over seven weeks in winter to see just how draughty and cold they get.
Participants were given temperature monitoring devices to test how often their homes were below 18ºC — the recommended “safe and well-balanced” indoor temperature set by the World Health Organisation for a home during winter.
The study was still underway in early July but the initial results published are… worrying.
In its first fortnight executive director of Better Renting Joel Dignam told the ABC the data showed the homes in NSW and Vic were below 18ºC for 70 per cent of the time.
“Even in some relatively warmer parts of Australia, the average temperatures are still really low. So in New South Wales and Victoria, the average temperature in the rental properties we’re tracking is still below 18ºC,” he said.
One Sydney resident involved in the study revealed that with three heaters cranking at once in one part of their house, the temperature could only reach 17ºC.
The coldest temperature recorded in a property so far has been 6ºC.
My house is so draughty my curtains blow when the windows are closed. And it’s so poorly insulated — the walls are literally plasterboard glued onto brick — that two heaters blasting in my bedrooms will never reach the temp set by the thermostat. And don’t even get me started on the mould situation in the bedroom, wardrobe and bathroom.
Better Renting posted on Twitter that the early data showed a gaping need for better tenancy laws and minimum rental standards in all states.
“People who rent are stuck in homes that make us sick because they are too cold. Unlike owner occupiers, we can’t make the needed changes to address this,” the post read.
“Governments need to start making landlords responsible for ensuring liveable healthy temperatures.”
Participants in the study also said the cold was seriously affecting their mental health. About 20 per cent of respondents have so far mentioned mental health issues related to not being warm enough at home.
“Our mental health is affected by the cold house,” one renter responded.
“I had to stay in bed under the blanket to study and do my homework or read a book at night as it is too cold.”
This is also not the first study to show properties are absolutely not up to scratch in Aus. Data from a 2019 Adelaide study that monitored temps in 35 homes in South Australia showed none of them *ever* reached 18ºC in winter.
And similar studies of properties in summer have shown they get dangerously hot too.
Another study titled How Do You Sleep At Night by advocacy group Healthy Homes For Renters is currently underway and collecting anecdotal data from renters nationwide to paint a picture of the measures people need to take to stay warm.
“We’ve heard stories from renters who have to use up to 14 blankets at night to even get to sleep,” the group wrote.
“Children who have developed frostbite on their toes from being in their cold home.”
Go ahead and share your story here if your rental’s also cold and your nips are also rock hard, and not in a fun way.
In the meantime layer up, get a hot water bottle and eat some soup.