In the midst of a freezing winter, and with the state government’s Fairer Safer Housing review of rental laws nearing completion, Environment Victoria is concerned time is running out to set minimum standards for health, safety and efficiency for all rental homes – something that could save Victorian renters up to $850 in power bills per year.
Under current laws, Victoria’s 550,000 rental homes are only required to meet whatever building standards were in place when they were constructed. This leaves many renters without basic efficiency measures like insulation, forcing them to pay more for energy bills or face dangerously hot or cold living conditions to save money. This has been supported by the ACCC’s findings that “Poor design and lack of maintenance of many rental properties are an issue, with ill-fitting windows and doors and poor heating options creating high bills”.
Victoria’s renters are demanding urgent action to save their health and their wallets. Over 15,000 Victorians have signed Environment Victoria’s petition calling for action by the State Government on Energy Efficiency in rental homes. One of them is Northcote mum Liz. As a renter with a teenage son to care for, Liz knows just how large the financial and physical burden of an old, energy inefficient home can be.
“My home is nearly 100 years old and completely uninsulated. Every winter quarter my bill triples. Last winter it was $740 from only using two plug-in electric heaters to heat the bedrooms, which I tried to use as sparingly as I could. I’m not able to heat the whole house, so there were mornings when I would walk into my kitchen to find the thermometer on my fridge reading minus two,” said Liz.
“I’ve done everything I can as a renter. I’ve made lined curtains for the windows, sealed off the coldest parts of the house with removable curtains over the doors, and put plastic over the toilet window which had no glass at all when we moved in. But it’s just not enough.
“Living in an energy inefficient home is also having serious impacts on my health. I’ve developed asthma in the time I’ve lived here and the cold triggers attacks.
“Minimum rental standards would make a huge difference to our family,” said Liz.
Environment Victoria Efficiency Campaigner Anne Martinelli couldn’t agree more.
“The government has committed to making renting fairer and safer through its review of Victoria’s rental laws, and minimum standards are critical to delivering on that objective,” said Ms Martinelli.
“Requiring rental homes to have basic measures like insulation is the single most effective action government could take to cut renters’ cost of living, create thousands of good, local jobs, and cut climate pollution.
“Victoria is getting left behind on this issue. We used to have standards but they lapsed in the 1990s. Meanwhile, Queensland and New Zealand have both legislated for rental efficiency standards in the last 2 years.
“More people are renting. Home ownership is increasingly out of reach for many Victorians and the latest Census figures show nearly one-third of households now rent in the private market. This is a mainstream issue that our government can no longer afford to ignore.
“It is not unreasonable to expect property investors to run their business in a way that avoids endangering other people’s safety and well-being.
“Over 15,000 Victorians have signed our petition supporting action by our state government on energy efficiency standards in rental homes. They know it is the best and most cost effective solution – $850 a year is a huge saving for most households.
“Environment Victoria is calling on all sides of politics to support legislating minimum rental standards for Victorian homes ahead of the November state election. It’s time for our politicians to hurry up and deliver this long overdue reform,” said Ms Martinelli.
Anne Martinelli, Environment Victoria Efficiency Campaigner
Office: (03) 9341 8117 Mobile: 0417 114 088