Energy efficient minimum standards

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In November 2017 the Queensland Government passed the Housing Legislation (Building Better Futures) Amendment Act 2017. One of the amendments was to introduce a new clause 17A into the Residential Tenancy and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (RTRAA) to allow minimum standards for rental properties to be specified by regulation. This amendment gave effect to a 2015 election commitment from the Labor Government.

The final recommendations are based on QCOSS’ analysis and is a continuation of and reinforces previous research by QCOSS regarding how tenants experience and access energy related issues. For broader renters’ rights and advocacy see Choice and Control? The experiences of renters in the energy market  and the QCOSS Position Statement on Renting(2018a), QCOSS Housing Position Statements and the QCOSS Housing Policy Review.

Key Messages

QCOSS found through our targeted research and consultation project on energy efficiency minimum standards for rental homes that:

  • the new clause provides an opportunity to replace the existing vague and arguably subjective requirement that rental properties be clean, fit, in good repair, and safe’ with clear specifications about the sort of amenity that renters have a right to expect
  • utilities industry research tells us that at any point-in-time around 10 per cent of people are in serious financial hardship and are unable to pay their bills (Thriving Communities Partnership, 2016)
  • there is evidence that people who are disconnected for non-payment are likely to live in rental homes that are hard to cool, hard to heat, or have other energy efficiency problems that impact on their bill.  About 80 per cent of people who were disconnected reported at least one energy efficiency issue that impacted their bill (PIAC, 2018)
  • there is broad support among tenant advocacy groups for the introduction of minimum standards to improve the energy efficiency of rental properties
  • improved energy efficiency of rental homes provides multiple benefits including reducing costs, reducing emissions, improving safety and security, and improving health and wellbeing.

Key Recommendations

Recommendation 1: Minimum standard for the energy efficiency of rental properties (Home energy rating scheme)

QCOSS recommends the Queensland Government introduce a minimum standard for the energy efficiency of rental homes through the introduction of a Household Energy Rating Scheme. This scheme would set a minimum home energy rating that rental property owners can achieve through any number of energy efficiency options.

Recommendation 2: Minimum standard for ceiling insulation

Implement prescribed minimum standards for ceiling insulation which target older rental properties or properties with a low home energy rating to bring them into line with contemporary building requirements. Insulation is widely accepted as one of the key factors in thermal performance of buildings. It is estimated that 25-35% of heat loss and gain in a house is through the ceiling[1], while a well-insulated roof offers a potential reduction in heating and cooling costs of up to 50%[2]. Although it may not be relevant to unit dwellers (other than those in top floor apartments), it is a measure that applies across all climate zones and lack of insulation commonly contributes to low energy efficiency.

Recommendation 3: Minimum standard for LED light fittings

Implement prescribed LED lightbulb ready fittings so that all light fittings can accommodate generally available LED lights. While replacing lights is typically the responsibility of the tenant, tenants are unable able to fit LED light bulbs where fittings need to be changed or where it is difficult to gain access to light fittings (for example, raised ceilings).

The case for immediate replacement of all fluorescent and incandescent lights is strong – these changes could save tenants up to $280 per year[3].

Recommendation 4: Compliance framework

QCOSS recommends the Queensland Government develop a compliance framework that requires mandatory disclosure based on a third-party assessment of the energy efficiency rating of the home. Home owners should be given a reasonable amount of time to comply with the new home energy rating scheme. This will strike the right balance between compliance costs on owners, industry can respond to the demand for energy efficiency improvements and the benefits to tenants.

Recommendation 5: Information to help people comply

Publish clear and independent information so all parties (renters, lessors, property agents and third-party exempt sellers) clearly understand the features of the regime, their rights and obligations and what to do if there is a dispute.

Read the full report here

[1] Australian Government, “Insulation”. Your Home Website

[2] ibid.

[3] Based on 10 lights per house running at 6 hours/day. The cost of an LED light is about $4 compared to a saving per year of $28.50 compared to incandescent lights.

Improving the energy performance of Australian homes is an important and necessary reform that will benefit people and the community
19 December 2018 | Focus area: ,