green renters | 25th Feb, 2018

Talking efficiency with your landlord or real estate agent

Efficiency improvements aren't always a top priority for landlords, which is why we're campaigning for mandatory minimum standards. But if you feel comfortable talking to your landlord or real estate agent about simple upgrades that would make the home more comfortable for you and reduce its environmental impact, here are some tips on how to go about it.

Many landlords want to do the right thing by their tenants and the environment, but efficiency improvements aren’t always the first thing they think of. Basic measures like insulation or draught-sealing are pretty invisible, so it may not have occurred to them that installing a new heater or air-conditioner in an inefficient, leaky house might actually lead to higher energy bills for you and more climate pollution.

And some landlords are simply not very responsible when it comes to keeping their properties in good condition. That’s why we’re campaigning for mandatory minimum standards for rental homes. So while we’re working to deliver this long overdue reform, here are a few tips for talking to your landlord about efficiency if you think they might be receptive. Providing useful information in a constructive way might make all the difference.

Build your case – ‘what’s in it for them?’

There are definitely landlords out there who are keen to reduce their environmental impact and provide a liveable home for their tenants. Here are a couple of examples of what landlords have told us motivate them to invest in efficiency:

“A comfortable house is better for the tenant, landlord and the environment.” Lorraine, Pakenham

“If you respect your tenant by providing decent housing then it stands to reason that your tenant will reciprocate and respect your property.” Cathy, Kyneton South

However, let’s assume that most landlords will also want to know what’s in it for them. So here’s a list of some of the other benefits and where landlords can go for advice and financial assistance:

  • Investing in efficiency could increase the value of the property, help your landlord retain good tenants and help find good tenants quickly in future.
  • The Victorian government provides subsidies for energy-saving products such as low-flow shower-heads, draught-sealing, efficient heaters and lighting through its Energy Upgrades Program.  Property owners can only access the subsidy if the upgrade is booked through an accredited provider listed on the VEUP website
  • The cost of some capital improvements such as replacing an inefficient hot water system or new insulation may also be able to be claimed as a tax deduction over a period of time. More information is available in this ATO guide

Do some research

The more specific you can be about the improvements you want and why they will make a difference to your quality of life, the more likely your landlord will be to agree. Hopefully anyway! We’ve compiled a list of the most effective energy and water-saving measures and spelled out where you need your landlord’s permission (or it’s their responsibility to do it), and where you have some leeway to make minor modifications yourself. More detailed information is also available from Sustainability Victoria and the federal government’s Your Home website.

Get it in writing

If you’re approaching your real estate agent or landlord with ideas about what you’d like changed in your rental property, it’s important to also put your request in writing, be it letter or email. We’ve included a sample letter to make this easier.

Make sure you get any agreement from your landlord in writing and that it is signed before you do anything. Keep your copy in a safe place.

You’re legally obliged to restore the property back to the condition it was when you moved in. So even if you have permission to make changes, ask the landlord to include in your written agreement that you will not be expected to undo the changes when you move out.

Can the landlord then up my rent?

The downside with getting your landlord to green the property is that if the changes make the place more valuable or more attractive to future tenants, they might take the opportunity to increase your rent. However if you have a fixed term lease, they can’t increase the rent before the end date, unless it says they can in the lease. They also can’t increase your rent more than once every six months, and they must give you 60 days notice. If you think any rent increases are too high, you can get an inspector from Consumer Affairs Victoria to assess if the increase is reasonable, and you can use their report to appeal your landlord’s decision.

As part of our campaign for minimum standards, we are also working with the Tenants Union for other important reforms like a cap on rent increases. For more information, check out the MakeRentingFair campaign or contact the Tenants Union


Top tips to make your home more comfortable, affordable and sustainable
Sustainable renting and the law