Victorian rental properties at temperatures beneath World Health Organisation ‘safe’ standard

Case study for freezing cold rentals story

Ben Kreunen and his two cats participated in research that showed just how cold Victorian rentals are in winter. Picture: David Crosling


Victorian renters are shivering through dangerously low winter temperatures and spending a fortune on futile attempts to heat their homes.

Rental properties in the state monitored as part of a new study were below the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum 18 degrees an alarming 80 percent of the time.

The average minimum temperature was 9.8 degrees, while 50 percent of the researchers’ homes were beneath 18 degrees at least 90 percent of the time.

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Australian homes “are not built to cope with winter cold”, according to Better Renting’s Cold and Costly report, which monitored temperatures and experiences across the country this winter.

Insulation has not been widely considered as it is in much-colder climate countries, leaving some tenants here with less respite from winter’s bite than in North America and Europe.

Better Renting executive director Joel Dignam said everyone should have a home that was warm and dry in winter that kept their family safe — but renters were missing out.

“Draughty, uninsulated rental homes force temperatures down and power bills up,” he said.

“Renters told us about getting sick more often, about a constant state of worrying over energy costs, and an unending battle against mold and damp.”

Ringwood East’s Ben Kreunen benefited from a new heating system partway through his participation in the study, and his comfort has improved exponentially.

COLD HOUSING

Leejay Flack sports a familiar look for renters. Picture: Brenton Edwards


Mr Kreunen said the previous gas ducted system could not compete with the cold air and was so old it had fahrenheit on it. It was only replaced when it was deemed a fire risk.

“You’d get up at 8am and turn the heater on and it would finally get up to 17 degrees at 4.30pm — the max temperature was about 17-18 degrees — then it would start cooling down again because it just couldn’t compete with the cold night air,” he said.

“Even with the heater going on full non-stop the house would slowly cool down because it would be cooling down faster than it could heat it.”

Mr Kreunen, whose cats Rommie and Chanelle had helped keep him warm before the new 3.5 star system was put in, said insulation was the key factor in winter and summer.

VICTORIAN PARLIAMENT

Samantha Ratnam and the Victorian Greens are calling for insulation and draft-proofing standards for rental properties. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling


Victoria’s minimum standards required a fixed heater in the living area, and if there wasn’t one a minimum 2-star energy efficient unit must be installed.

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam said the party was calling for the minimum standards to be expanded to “include ceiling insulation and draft-proofing standards, four-star heating that avoids polluting gas heaters so that renters can keep warm, and cooling”.

Tenants Victoria director of client services Agata Wierzbowski said the “absence of adequate heating” remained a concern for renters who contacted their services this winter.

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