Last night, activists and supporters from across Victoria came together to decide on specific asks and tactics to win the Heatwave Safe Rentals campaign. Everyone who attended the meeting brought different perspectives to the table. One supporter stressed the urgency of minor rental fixes as a practical and immediate goal, while another supporter emphasised the connection between the environmental and renters crisis. Others spoke about the importance of amplifying renters’ voices and experiences to counter government inaction.
Everyone agreed that there is a big opportunity to build a grassroots movement of renters and allies who want to see heatsafe homes a reality for all renters.
The key campaign asks that came up were:
- Introduce insulation standards for rentals asap: Adequate insulation is critical for ensuring heat safe rental homes, and should be at no cost to renters. Given that the ACT has recently enforced new standards for insulation, there is an incentive to use this precedent to take advantage of existing momentum to make this ask more urgent.
- Landlords have to action heat related complaints within 24 hours: Heatwaves are our deadliest environmental disaster. All home repairs that prevent you from keeping your home cool, whether that’s a broken screen door, air con or blinds, should be classed as an emergency issue. We want to see any issue that prevents residents from maintaining a safe, cool and comfortable temperature at home classified as an urgent repair.
- Include cooling (alongside heating) in the minimum rental standards: Including cooling in existing legislation could provide tenants with leverage to negotiate with their landlords to upgrade cooling systems, or install features such as blinds, window seals and heat-blocking curtains without putting additional financial stress on renters.
- Allocate funds to clear the backlog of cases at VCAT and to provide more legal support for renters affected by environmental disasters, including heatwaves: Clearing the backlog of rental disputes in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is essential because it would help ensure that renters are protected from unsafe living conditions. There is currently a large backlog of cases that is putting immense stress on renters. Delayed resolution can exacerbate issues for renters, many of whom are already facing financial hardship, or disruptions to their personal lives.
The group agreed on the need for a comprehensive approach to creating safe rental conditions. Options for additional funding were explored, including renters’ vouchers or landlord funding. However, everyone acknowledged that this was a complex issue, and there were concerns about backing short-term, band-aid solutions or funding upgrades that could lead to rent increases. We also discussed the budget demands necessary to support the campaign, including clearing the VCAT backlog and providing additional funding for legal help related to climate disasters.
This summer is set to be a scorcher, and everyone agreed to organise an event in October to keep the pressure on key decision makers. By coming together to decide on the key asks of the campaign, we are one step closer to ensuring that policies and funding are in place to support people during heatwaves. We discussed collaborating with some of the key organisations building power and advocating for policy change for renters including RAHU, Better Renting and the Healthy Homes for Renters coalition.
We also spoke about other campaign actions including an open letter on the health impacts of hot homes, photo petitions and collecting real time data on unsafe temperatures in Victorian homes during heatwaves.
Better Renting is working with renters across the country to monitor the temperature inside their homes in summer and winter that demonstrated the urgent need for energy efficiency standards for renters. If you would like to find out more about becoming a renter researcher read more here.
You can sign the petition for heatwave safe homes for renters to keep in touch with the campaign and future actions. Sign here!