Living in a hot home: Melissa’s story

Photo of a cat on a bed

A few weeks ago we spoke to Melissa who was generous enough to share her story of living in a hot home. If you would like to support our campaign to make sure all Victorian rental homes are safe in the heat sign our petition.

Melissa is a renter who lives in Gippsland. She and her husband have been living in their current home since June, and from the very start, they have struggled to keep cool. They have a West-facing home on a busy road, which means that it can be baking hot from the first thing in the morning. This, combined with the absence of air conditioning, has made their home unbearable to live in during heatwaves.

The situation came to a head when Melissa’s portable air conditioner broke. Within hours, the temperature in the room rose to 33 degrees. Melissa and her husband were forced to seek refuge at her husband’s parents’ home. On hot days, they spend a lot of time with family because it can be unbearable at home.

The heat is not only uncomfortable but also has an impact on Melissa’s health. She suffers from migraines, and on hot days her brain swelling puts pressure on the optic nerve, causing her to get blurry vision.

Melissa told us: “Due to the blinds and windows I have, I have to use a decent size canvas print to not only provide privacy when needing the portable AC, but also helps to block out any heat from coming back inside. Also where the tube is for the AC, I need to shove a towel as the heat from the tube, that was pushed outside, just came back in the room.” 

“Because the windows are so high, we need to drain the water in an ice box. I am recovering from surgery because I fractured my humerus and I physically can not lift it. If my husband forgets to empty it on almost a daily, I have to pick and choose when I can have it on, as it’s also got a dehumidifier in the AC, this was water from just last night.”

photo of air con vent going out a window
Portable air conditioner at window with towel to keep out hot air
Water collecting in a chilly bin from a dehumidifier
Water collection from the dehumidifier

Though health advice often recommends that people ‘go to a cool place’ on hot days, Melissa’s finds loud, bright public spaces, such as shopping centers uncomfortable. To escape the heat, she and her husband have resorted to driving around with the air conditioning on to get relief. 

When they moved in, they asked for air conditioning to be installed and even offered to pay more per week, but they haven’t heard anything. The windows have no flyscreens, so when they open them to let in cool air, bugs and mosquitoes come in. The portable air conditioner doesn’t work well in the bright afternoon sun. They’ve had to resort to using blankets and cardboard against the windows on hot days to block the westward sun.

Image of blanked hanging in front of a window to block light and heat
Blanket used over a window to reduce heat in a bedroom
Image of see-through blinds
Thin blinds that don’t keep the heat out

Their list of requests to the landlord includes air conditioning, better blinds, and double-glazed windows. They had a cat that is ok in the heat, but they previously had a dog that died in the heat in Central Queensland. The average temperature was 40 degrees for months on end, and he was an older dog and couldn’t handle it.

Because Victoria’s minimum standards for rental homes doesn’t include being safe on hot days, people like Melissa can’t request air con, or simple changes like better blinds or insulation that might help them be cool at home. We need to add the right to be safe and cool at home on hot days to Victoria’s minimum rental standards. This isn’t just a matter of comfort, for lots of us it’s a matter of safety.

If you want to get involved in the campaign, sign our petition or register as a volunteer.

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