Thursday, January 28, 2021

Kate Hawkesby: Are heating and cooling standards for landlords over the top?


Well we might have some cities like Christchurch basking in 35-degree heat today, but it's not quite the 40 degrees that some Sydneysiders are baking in.

Some NSW homes so hot, residents can barely cool them down, especially those on low incomes.

One resident was quoted as saying she ‘dreaded summer’ and had to wrap herself in a damp towel with ice cubes just to cool down. Which made me think about our new ventilation and insulation rules coming in here shortly for landlords.

Not that we have the typically sky-high temps of Sydney, but we do have under the new rules, very high thresholds for cooling and heating rental properties now.

We've heard the reports that the tough new regulations are seeing many landlords abandon the rental market, as the costs have become prohibitively high. You have to get a heating assessment done first of all, which we've done with a rental property.

And at the end of that, even the heat pump guys were astounded at what the new government standards recommended off the back of it. For a very small property, the new rules saw a requirement for a gigantic heat pump, blowing out commercial size amounts of air and cooling the room so quickly, the tenants had to turn it off they were so cold, they said. The aircon guys said they would previously have never put such a huge machine into a small property like that, but the new rules are extremely intense.

The tenant's concerns are of course the cost of turning this on. And that’s a very real concern. Heating and cooling rentals is one thing, getting tenants to use it is another. How many landlords are putting in very expensive air-conditioning units and heat pumps, only to have the tenant never use it because the cost of running it is too high?

The NSW government has a cool plan – literally – to plant trees across Sydney, at a cost of $37.5 million to increase the green canopy and cool suburbs down. That makes sense to me. Beautifying the place with greenery, and cooling to down. Smart. Because there, like here, fear of high energy bills is making people wary about switching on the aircon.

It is of course the tenant's choice what they opt for in terms of heating or cooling the place, they can use the aircon, or open a window or use a fan, up to them. And I think it's good they now get to have a choice, I’m not against insulating rentals at all. Personally, as a landlord I’d rather a tenant whine about a high-power bill than not being able to warm up or cool down their home. I just wonder whether the government hasn’t gone a bit over the top in just how extreme the heating and cooling measures need to be.. not just for the landlords who have to pay to install it, but ultimately for the tenants who have to use it.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

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