Following the recent heatwave in Western Australia, which saw more days over 40C than any other summer on record, rental tenancy advocacy groups are calling for landlords to be responsible for adequate cooling in rental properties.
The problem of cooling in rental tenancies has been exacerbated by Covid restrictions, with plenty of renters forced to stay indoors during isolation following a Covid-positive contact or test.
One renter, who spoke with the ABC, explained the isolation situation as neither “livable or healthy.” She said she “felt… trapped” in her flat and explained that she didn’t think she “realised just how hot it was getting” until she started tracking the temperature. Tenant advocacy group, Better Renting, provided the thermometer as part of a research project called Renter Researchers.
The situation in Perth has come to the focus of both landlord and tenant advocacy groups during the heatwave but will likely be seen in other parts of the country as summer continues and temperature records tumble.
Better Renting executive director Joel Digham explained that the experiences of the last few weeks in Western Australia has meant many renters are hoping for minimum standards via their landlords, to guarantee comfort within properties.
“Minimum rental standards would make it easier for people who rent to be able to afford to keep their home at a decent temperature in summer,” he said.
The President of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia, Damian Collins, explained that he doesn’t believe that there should be an obligation upon landlords.
“The more things you make mandatory, the higher the cost of rent will be,” he said.
“Some people feel they need it but some people and some properties, perhaps orientated correctly, can cope perfectly fine without it. We’d certainly be against any mandating of air conditioning.”
In Western Australia, landlords are not required to provide heating or cooling, but they are required to maintain units if they are installed in a rental property.
While the issue of heating has come to the fore during the record-breaking summer Western Australia is experiencing, submissions to the review of the state’s tenancy laws will likely continue to be at the fore and expand to include heating and ventilation issues come winter.
A spokesperson from WA’s Consumer Protection explained that “stakeholders suggested … adequate cooling and ceiling fans should be a minimum requirement for homes in warmer parts of WA,” the spokesperson said.
“Related issues around adequate home insulation, energy-efficient homes and climate change were also raised during consultation.”