It’s hard enough to find a decent property amid Victoria’s worsening rental crisis, let alone one with sustainability credentials.
The Victorian minimum standards that have come into effect in recent years have a few sustainability focused mandates. These include the need for shower heads with a three-star water efficiency rating, while from this year, rental properties also require a fixed, energy-efficient heater in the main living area — whether that’s a fireplace, ducted heating, or a non-portable gas space heater.
Tenants Victoria’s rental support service manager Georga Wootton says although these are ‘a good start’, they ultimately aren’t doing enough to ensure landlords (also known as ‘rental providers’) address the issues of poorly insulated and inefficient rentals.
Below, Georga and independent energy advisor Tim Forcey reveal their advice for tenants looking to improve their home’s sustainability — including some things you can do without needing your landlord’s permission.
Run electric appliances over gas
As Tim Forcey revealed on the latest episode of our podcast TDF Talks, one of the biggest ways any household can reduce their environmental footprint is by getting off the gas and switching to electric appliances. But for tenants, this unfortunately isn’t always so straight forward.
‘Renters advise us that rental providers push back against tenant’s requests for more energy efficient appliances (such as split-system heating) and requests for solar panels to be installed,’ Georga says.
Despite this, if your rental is fitted with gas appliances, it’s still worth asking your landlord about the possibility of installing an induction cooktop, or a reverse air conditioner — which Tim says is one of the cheapest options to heat your home without gas. And it’s even better if your home is powered by renewable energy.
‘In 2015, we found that people in Melbourne and Canberra and all around the place could heat their homes with a reverse cycle air conditioner for a third of the cost of using gas,’ Tim notes. Other options renters can explore include purchasing energy efficient washer-dyers that operate off a heat pump, or buying a portable induction cooktop for around $50.
Georga notes that rental providers cannot ‘unreasonably refuse’ these kinds of temporary modifications under Victoria’s rental laws, as long as they don’t ‘penetrate or permanently modify the surfaces, fixtures or structure of the property’.