Mon. May 23rd, 2022

For four days in Perth’s heat wave over Christmas and New Year, the temperature in Rosa Hick’s bedroom did not drop below 30 degrees.

She was forced to isolate herself one day in her small South Fremantle house and had only one pedestal fan to use in an attempt to cool herself.

She said her rented house had not been “habitable or healthy” this summer season.

“As I isolated myself in my room for 12 hours waiting for a COVID test result, I felt even more trapped when I knew I could not escape to the ocean or even catch the breeze in my garden,” she told Geoff Hutchison on ABC Perth’s Drive program.

A woman in a small room near a pedestal fan.
Mrs. Hicks swelled through her period of isolation, and Perth is facing another heatwave. (ABC Radio Perth: Kate Leaver )

Almost unbearable

Mrs Hicks has tracked the temperature in her bedroom with a thermometer provided by the rental group Better Renting for a project called Renter Researchers.

“I was struggling to sleep,” she said.

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The situation will come into sharp focus for many renters as Perth swells through yet another heat wave, which could break a record for most days in a row above 40 degrees, giving health warnings and record power consumption.

Better Renting CEO Joel Digham said the experience of tenants like Mrs Hicks had prompted renewed pressure on landlords to provide minimum standards of comfort in their properties.

“Interest Researchers aim to bring to the forefront what people renting their homes are experiencing, by combining data and people’s stories to highlight the challenges of enduring an Australian summer in a poor quality home,” he said. .

An intermediate image of a man wearing a purple tie, white shirt and navy blue blazer standing with a tree in the background.
Damian Collins says landlords should not be required to install air conditioners.(ABC News: Jessica Warriner)

No obligation

President Damian Collins of the Real Estate Institute of WA (REIWA) said landlords were not required to provide air conditioning for renters.

“The more things you make mandatory, the higher the rental price,” he said.

“And ultimately, tenants have to make their own choices.

“Some people feel they need it, but some people and some properties, perhaps properly oriented, can do just fine without it.

While landlords do not have to supply a property with appropriate heating and cooling units, they are required to maintain it if a unit is already in a property.

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Push for standards

Circle Green Community Legal Lease Attorney Alice Pennycott said minimum standards for renting heating and cooling were part of the organization’s submission to a revision of the WA Residential Tenancies Act.

But she said that even if it cooled or heated the house efficiently, inefficient or expensive running air conditioning could also be a problem for tenants.

“Energy efficiency is a big one,” Ms Pennycott said.

“There is a significant impact on health and well-being if there are problems with mold and moisture in the cooler months, but also in having to choose between putting air conditioning on and being able to afford groceries, especially for low-income families.

“We presented in our rather detailed post about getting the minimum standards for energy efficiency and health.

“I’m still waiting to hear from you [state] the government as to whether it is something they are putting in.

A hand holding a remote control for the air conditioner.
Perth residents swelling through a heatwave turn to air conditioning to stay cool – if they have it.(ABC Kimberley: Ben Collins)

A spokesman for Consumer Protection said several submissions to the review of WA’s tenancy laws raised the issue of cooling in rental properties.

“Stakeholders suggested that adequate cooling and ceiling fans should be a minimum requirement for homes in warmer parts of WA,” the spokesman said.

“Related issues around adequate housing insulation, energy efficient homes and climate change were also raised during the consultation.”

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