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‘Crumbling around us’: Rental horror stories

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos AUGUST 7, 2022: Generic images of Cost of Living. A house for rent at Richmond in inner Melbourne. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw
More than 70 per cent of Australian rental properties recorded minimum indoor temperatures below World Health Organisation recommendations. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

Renters from across Australia are enduring horror living conditions, including freezing temperatures and inescapable mould, according to new research.

New data from tenancy advocacy organisation Better Renting has revealed the extreme living conditions that renters from each state and territory experienced over the course of winter.

In Victoria, renter Marcia said it had become taxing to deal with the state of disrepair her home had fallen into.

“The house has slowly been crumbling around us – the floors are collapsing, the roof was a disaster, the gutter used to backflow into the ceiling and it’s just sort of crumbly and depressing,” she said.

More than 70 per cent of Australian rental properties recorded minimum indoor temperatures below World Health Organisation recommendations. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
More than 70 per cent of Australian rental properties recorded minimum indoor temperatures below World Health Organisation recommendations. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

The research found that 72 per cent of rental properties across the nation recorded temperatures below 18C, the minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation.

For more than three hours per day, Australian rental properties recorded colder temperatures indoors than out.

The worst performing state was NSW, where indoor temperatures were only 2.8C warmer than outside, while the best performing state was the ACT where homes were more than 7C warmer.

One NSW renter, Anna, said the conditions of her rental home were so poor that she was forced to spend large amounts of time in bed.

“(It) kind of mimics some mental illness symptoms and that’s unhelpful for me,” she said.

Another NSW renter, Sebastian, said he had struggled to have issues resolved with landlords.

“It sucks and all our requests to the owner and real estate agent have gone unanswered,” he said.

“There’s only the tribunal and NCAT to really lead to any change.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos 25 MARCH 2023: Rent, rental crisis, housing. People are seen attending a rental viewing in Essendon. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Ascui
NSW renters reported increased social isolation. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Ascui

Better Renting researched 59 renters across the country to track temperature and humidity from June to August, comparing outdoor temperatures to indoor conditions.

The organisation’s deputy director Bernie Barrett said renters were “missing out” on safe and warm homes during the colder months.

“As our researchers have told us, renters are trapped in a powerless position where they can’t speak up for themselves and ask for even the bare minimum because they are beholden to the whims of landlords and real estate who hold all the power to potentially make them homeless,” he said.

“Rental homes in Australia are failing to meet minimum healthy temperatures, even during a warmer winter.

“Homes in some states, such as NSW and South Australia, are so substandard that it is routinely colder indoors than it is outdoors.

“This is taking a massive toll on renters’ physical and mental health but also their hip pockets, as they are stuck paying high energy bills to try and warm their cold and draughty homes.”

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos - JUNE 27, 2023: Cost of Living Generic Images. Household expenses. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Emma Brasier
Record-high power prices left many renters cutting back on heating over the winter months. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Emma Brasier

Renters in SA struggled with some of the highest power prices in the country, while those in NSW reported social isolation due to mould and low temperature concerns in the home preventing them from letting others visit.

Record-low vacancy rates and higher power costs have left many renters forced to cut back on heating and unable to move into better homes, the research suggested.

Mr Barrett said renters were waiting for government action.

“Victoria and the ACT have introduced minimum energy efficiency standards for rentals, requiring measures like efficient heaters or ceiling insulation,” he said.

“More governments need to step up and take responsibility to make rental homes healthy, safe, and affordable.”