Canberra landlords will be obliged to ensure their properties meet minimum energy performance requirements before renting them out under proposed laws.
The ACT government released its climate change strategy for 2019-25 on Monday and while plans for "car-free" days grabbed the headlines, the strategy also committed to introducing minimum energy requirements for rental properties.
Legislation is expected to be introduced in 2021 and would come into effect by 2022-23. By 2022, the ACT will also introduce mandatory disclosure of energy performance for rental properties, according to the strategy, as is the case for all properties listed for sale. The ACT is currently the only state or territory where it is mandatory to disclose the energy efficiency rating of a property listed for sale.
Canberra renter Bella Himmelreich said the proposed laws could help her and her housemates get through summer without resorting to extreme measures.
"It was boiling in our rental home last summer, the house was like a hotbox. We would do everything we could to try to get cool, from cold washers to even putting our bedsheets in the freezer," the Downer resident said.
"This change would make a big difference for us and other people on low incomes."
While the proposed legislation is yet to be outlined, it will most likely require landlords to apply retrofitting measures to their investment properties to get their property up to a minimum energy efficiency rating. But prior to the planned changes there will be an ACT election, which is set for October 2020.
Light House Architecture and Science director Jenny Edwards completed a study in which 11 low-income households were retrofitted in 2012. She said there were a lot of practical retrofitting measures that could increase the energy efficiency of a home, with air leaks in homes a major hindrance in achieving a higher energy rating. Draught sealing was a major component of the retrofitting.
Once the measures were implemented, there was an average 22 per cent reduction in energy use compared with the same quarter in the previous year. Energy efficiency ratings for all the properties also increased, with one property jumping from a 2.9 to a 4.7.
The cost of the retrofits ranged from $1743 to $7775, but Ms Edwards estimated the cost had probably risen by 150 per cent since the study was undertaken.
Ms Edwards said she would like to see a minimum rating of three, and that the changes would be a win for both landlords and tenants.
"It's a win for landlords - happier tenants as it's so much more comfortable [and] it increases the resilience of a building, meaning it is likely to last longer."
Better Renting executive director Joel Dignam also welcomed the proposed changes.
"Especially with climate change increasing the risks from extreme heat, this policy will help renters to adapt through better housing quality," he said.
Previous research from Better Renting found from almost 20,000 listings, two in five rental properties advertised in Canberra had an energy efficiency rating of zero, compared to less than one in 20 listed for sale.