A tenants guide to repairs, upgrades and bill busting

Run down rental homes are a huge problem in Australia

  • A report published in February 2017 from the national tenants association, choice magazine and national shelter has exposed the terrible state of rental housing in Australia. 10% of tenants are currently living in properties in urgent need of repair. Over half of renters feel like they have to accept expensive, run down homes. Many others feel like they can’t even ask for necessary repairs.

Some common reasons tenants have for not asking for repairs or upgrades include:

  • Fear of rent increases (42%)

  • Eviction fears (23%)

  • Being blacklisted or getting a bad reference (14%)

  • Not getting lease renewed (14%)

  • Requests will just get rejected, no point (8%)

  • Fear of confrontation with the landlord or agent (8%)

  • Concerns that tenants will have to pay repair costs (4%)

Renters have a right to live in comfortable homes that don’t cost our health, wallet, or the world to run. It’s also very easy for landlords to make repairs etc. because they can get a 100% tax write-off for this. This means there’s no reasons why we should have to accept run down homes.

Heaps of tenants experience the following repair problems:

  • Leaking and flooding (21%)

  • Doors and windows that don’t close properly (24%)

  • Mould (20%)

  • Key appliances like stoves, heaters, aircon not working (17%)

  • And lots of other important things.

Tips on getting repairs

  • When you make repair requests, make sure you submit the request in writing. If they don’t respond you might want to follow it up with a call. If they still don’t respond, you can get urgent repairs of less than $1000 done by a certified tradesperson and be reimbursed by the landlord. If you can’t afford to pay upfront you can organise to get your rent paid into a tribunal until the repairs are made. A full guide can be found on the NSW Department of Fair Trading website

Thing we can do to save energy and money now (no need to speak to the landlord or agent!)

Wat’er waste

  • Hot water systems take up about a quarter of the average home’s energy use. About 15% of renters report problems with broken hot water systems (leaking water, leaking gas etc.). If your hot water system’s working OK, you might want to set it to 60 degrees. This saves a lot of energy and still provides nice, hot water.

  • In NSW rental homes have to meet certain water saving standards, or your landlord has to pay your water bills. The standard is:

    • No leaking taps

    • Showers don’t use more than 9 Litres a minute.

    • If you wanna test your shower head, put a bucket under maximum flow for 1 minute. If it just fills up it’s OK (most buckets hold 9 L).

  • Checkout the tenants NSW utilities page for more information.

  • Homes that save water usually also save a lot on gas or electricity!

Dodgy doors and windows

  • 24% of tenants have doors and windows which don’t close properly. This is a security problem, and it’s also a massive source of energy wastage, especially with warm air leaking out in winter. A lot of heat escapes through gaps in doors but these can be plugged pretty easily with things like draught sealing tape which costs $20.

  • If you have them, close curtains and a pelmet to keep warm air in (pelmets are those things at the top of some curtains to stop warm air being sucked out by the cold glass). If you can’t get the landlord or real estate agent to install proper curtains you can place thick sheets etc. over the glass to capture the warmth

The greenhouse effect in your own home

  • 18% of tenants say their home is too difficult to cool or heat.

  • In summer windows actually soak up the heat, just like a car left in the parking lot on a hot day. The best thing to stop windows absorbing all that heat is to install an external shade cloth. If the landlord won’t do it for you you can make one for yourself. Some people use bubble wrap to keep the heat out, you can get it pretty cheap at hardware stores etc.

  • 19% of renters are missing basic fly screens. Landlords and real estate agents should ensure every home has these, they cost basically nothing and on unbearably hot summer nights they provide natural ventilation, so you don’t have to run aircon or a million fans.

Government and non government financial support

  • If you can get pensioner, disability or low income support through centrelink then you may be able to get $150-$230 taken off your electricity bill. There are also some rebates available if you have certain medical conditions. Checkout the full list of rebates here.

  • If you simply can’t afford to pay a bill you may be able to get Energy Account Payment Assistance through a list of non-government organisations here.

25% of tenants who make repair requests from landlords receive no response. Many are worried that they will face rent hikes, abuse or evictions after making a complaint. If this is you, or you’re still struggling with your energy bills and general home environment, get in touch with us! Together we can expose and fix dodgy, overpriced rentals