• Victoria is raising the bar on heating, cooling and energy efficiency in rental properties.
    Victoria is raising the bar on heating, cooling and energy efficiency in rental properties.

States and territories throughout Australia are taking steps to introduce minimum standards for renters which includes mandatory heating and cooling.

Tenancy laws are being amended to ensure landlords make properties liveable and while most focus on the bare minimum like hot and cold running water, some jurisdictions are taking steps to set even higher standards.

Tenancy law expert and senior research fellow from the UNSW City Futures Research Centre at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture, Dr Chris Martin, said landlords have an obligation to ensure premises are safe and comfortable.

“If it takes an air-conditioner or a heating unit to make a particular premises habitable, that’s what’s required to meet that obligation,” he said.

Martin said Victoria has raised the bar by setting standards that include heating and cooling.

UNSW senior research fellow, Dr Chris Martin.

“Victoria requires all rental properties to have a fixed heater in the main living space that meets energy efficiency requirements,” he said.

Consultations are underway in Victoria to introduce new standards that would require a fixed cooling unit and higher energy and water efficiency standards.

Known as the Residential Tenancies and Residential Regulations 2024, it will provide minimum standards for ceiling insulation, draughtproofing, hot water systems, cooling, and the uplift of current standards for heating which will apply to all rental properties.

The proposed regulations are expected to be finalised in October 2024.

Dr Martin said other states and territories should consider introducing similar heating requirements in a phased approach into their own minimum standards.

“Deliberately raising the standard of rental properties in this way would likely impose a cost, and it’s reasonable to expect that cost to flow through to higher rents,” Dr Martin said. “But if the improvements also focus on energy efficiency, there could be cost savings for tenants from the improved thermal performance of their homes.”

A 2022 report by the tenancy advocacy organisation Better Renting found that rental homes in Australia fell below 18 degrees during winter which is the minimum temperature that the World Health Organisation regards as safe for indoor environments.

“If premises are so cold that they are unsafe or unbearably uncomfortable, then the premises are not fit for habitation, and the landlord is in breach of the tenancy agreement,” Martin said.

“Likewise, if premises are too hot, it too can also be unsafe or so uncomfortable that it is in breach of the tenancy agreement.”