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‘Unliveable’ summers for Aussie renters

By Orana Durney-Benson
19 March 2024 | 10 minute read
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Rental homes across the country are 3 degrees hotter indoors than outdoors for eight hours a day, shows new temperature data.

A new report from tenant advocacy organisation Better Renting found that renters in NSW, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia faced “life threatening” indoor temperatures last summer.

The researchers tracked temperature and humidity levels in 109 rental homes across four states and territories, and found that indoor temperatures were higher than outdoors over a third of the time.

In NSW, this percentage was even higher, with rental homes experiencing higher temperatures than outside 42.5 per cent of the time.

According to Better Renting, one participant in the project “required ambulance attendance after suffering vertigo, vomiting and panic attacks due to heat and humidity”.

“In a rental market like this one, people just take what they can get unfortunately,” said Sabrina Clarke, Better Renting project officer.

“Renters are worried about asking for more because they fear eviction or homelessness. Even basic things, like getting an air conditioner repaired, can be more than a renter is willing to ask for,” said Clarke.

Even those whose homes do have air conditioning struggle to cool their homes due to high electricity costs.


Jessica Buckland, a renter who lives with her four-year-old son in the ACT, said: “The house is unbearable without AC or fans in the peak of summer; it will be hotter inside than out.”

“I don’t think twice about turning the AC on when [my son] is home, but I’ll go without when it’s just me. I’m worried about the power bill,” said Buckland.

Clarke noted that for renters like Buckland, “fear of the next electricity bill is creating even more stress. And through it all, you’ve got this sense of powerlessness because you know one wrong move could mean you lose your home”.

Bernie Barrett, deputy director for Better Renting, stated that immediate action is needed to lift the standard of rental homes.

“Government should require landlords to make changes so that rental homes are fit and healthy to live in through summer,” said Barrett. “Simple changes like ceiling insulation, fly screens, or cooling appliances, can help reduce the danger from extreme indoor heat.”

“Victoria and the ACT have already acted here – other jurisdictions need to step up,” remarked Barrett.

The deputy director also urged governments to end no-grounds evictions “so that renters have some chance of advocating for themselves” without fear of retaliation.

“Renters who have been facing record increases should, at the very least, have a decent home for them and their children,” Barrett concluded.

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