Better Renting’s Advocacy Coordinator, Bernie Barrett, outlines the organisation’s crucial work in the renting sector to improve the living conditions and wellbeing of renters across Australia.
Making homes energy efficient reduces bills, improves peoples’ health and wellbeing, reduces emissions, and makes homes more comfortable and livable – even during weather extremes. Renters have been denied these benefits for too long.
Healthy Homes for Renters (HH4R) is a national collaboration of more than one hundred and twenty (120) organisations and three thousand (3,000) individual renters working together to bring these benefits to all people, regardless of whether they own their homes or rent them. Because everyone deserves a healthy home!
We’re aiming to do this by compelling all state and territory governments to implement minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes. This work is happening at varying levels around the country, with Victoria introducing their first minimum standards of a fixed heater in a rental homes’ living space in 2022. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) followed Victoria’s lead and introduced a minimum standard for ceiling insulation, which will be rolled out from April 2023.
Minimum standards will look different in all states and territories. This might look similar to what we have seen in Victoria or the ACT with a feature-based standard. Alternatively, it might be a performance standard, for example - a star rating system you might see on home appliances.. What we don’t want to see is governments failing to introduce any standards or relying solely on the goodwill of landlords by offering subsidies and incentives. The HH4R collaboration wants to see mandatory, enforceable and inclusive frameworks for minimum standards that will not put the onus on renters to monitor compliance.
To support the introduction of minimum standards and to improve the likelihood of renters asserting their rights, we also need to see an end to no-cause evictions Australia wide. No-cause evictions allow landlords to terminate a rental agreement at any moment without providing a reason as to why the tenancy is being terminated. Right now, in jurisdictions where no-cause evictions are allowed, renters have the ever constant fear that raising concerns or making complaints could result in the termination of their lease. Ending no-cause evictions and the strengthening of renters rights go firmly hand in hand.
While conversations and advocacy around minimum standards has been ongoing for years, we were lacking a way to demonstrate exactly what a good framework for minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes could look like. So, in late 2022 the HH4R collaboration released The Community Sector Blueprint: a National Framework for Minimum Energy Efficiency Rental Requirements.
The Blueprint provides an outline of key characteristics that should be present in the National Framework for Minimum Energy Efficiency Rental Requirements being produced by federal, state, and territory governments as part of the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings.
More than eighty (80) community sector organisations have come together to endorse the Blueprint as part of the HH4R collaboration. These organisations recognise that minimum energy efficiency standards in rental homes are more than just a response to carbon emissions: this policy supports basic community expectations that renters have decent homes that keep them healthy and safe, are cost effective to run, and are resilient to a changing climate.