Mandate Energy Efficiency Minimum Standards and Mandatory Disclosure for Rentals
To Whom it may Concern
I am writing to ask the Queensland Government to join other states in introducing Energy Efficiency Minimum Standards into rental tenancy regulations as part of its reforms to the Residential Tenancy and Rooming Accommodation Act (2008) (RTRAA). Renters are currently missing out on energy efficiency opportunities and paying too much for electricity in often poor quality homes. I congratulate the actions under the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan, but those actions alone are inadequate.
Over a third of Queenslanders rent and many people are renting for longer. Energy Efficiency is a real opportunity to improve people’s homes, affordability and action on climate change! Renters should be able to access these opportunities too.
The Stage One rental reforms in 2019 acknowledged the role energy efficiency plays in housing and energy affordability, health and emission reduction, yet we are still waiting for the Queensland government to provide an equal playing field.
Mandatory Energy Efficiency Standards
Mandatory Energy Efficiency Standards could be specific features-based standards (e.g. insulation or draught sealing), or whole of home performance-based standards (e.g 5 star homes).
I ask the Queensland government to include Energy Efficiency Minimum Standards provisions in regulations to the Residential Tenancy and Rooming Accommodation Act (2008) to:
initially require the energy efficiency features of a home to be disclosed at the point of advertisement, and eventually that the energy efficiency rating be disclosed on Entry Condition Reports;
require lessors to consent to energy performance improvements to the property if there is no cost to them;
initially introduce energy efficiency features, such as insulation, shading and reducing gaps and drafts; and
eventually implementing performance-based standards, raising homes to a minimum 4 star rating.
Poor quality homes
Renters often live in the poorest quality homes, yet have the least agency to improve their home. Landlords usually don’t undertake energy efficiency upgrades, even if funded, and even if it’s of no cost to themselves. This has been the experience in NSW, Vic and QLD. The NSW Home Power Savings Program, for example, showed that only 10 percent of private landlords gave permission for small improvements such as free efficient showerheads and draught strips to be installed under the program. At a landlord focus group conducted by Energetic Communities in early May 2023, the reasons given by the sample group of landlords was that many only respond to mandatory upgrades and direct requests for repairs to reduce any additional investment (time or money) they put into the property.
Support for upgrades
Property investors will soon be able to access low-cost finance through the federal government's new Household Energy Upgrades Fundannounced in the recent federal budget, as well as some limited actions under the Queensland Government's Energy and Jobs Plan, which will only help with education, maybe some appliances, but not the energy efficiency of the home itself. Property owners are unlikely to take up these opportunities, however, without mandatory Energy Efficiency Minimum Standards.
I also ask the Queensland Government to review the QCOSS implementation framework in their Shifting Power report to ensure property owners have the time and support to implement these changes.
Significant upgrades of the poorest quality homes are needed. This will only occur if the regulations are updated to mandate Energy Efficiency Minimum Standards for rental properties.
Renters should be able to know the efficiency rating or features of any house they’re applying for or even already rent in, and that this should be as easy and clear as knowing the efficiency rating of their fridge.
The updated RTRAA should mandate disclosure of what the energy efficiency features of rentals are at the point of advertising. These can easily be listed on both real estate company and industry websites like realestate.com or any other advertising. Disclosure should be presented to prospective tenants at the point of advertising, the entry condition report and lease agreements.
In 2019, all Commonwealth, state and territory energy ministers, including Queensland, agreed to the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings and its Addendum (the Trajectory) to develop and expand target building policies, including:
disclosure of energy performance
minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties
The RTRAA was updated in 2017 to give power to the Minister to regulate for energy efficiency minimum standards. I call on the Queensland Government to fulfill its promise under The Trajectory to implement mandatory and enforceable features-based (e.g. insulation), with progressive improvement to performance-based (e.g. 5 star homes) energy efficiency minimum standards for rental properties in line with the Community Sector Blueprint: A National Framework for Minimum Energy Efficiency Rental Requirements.
Integration and compliance with other Rental Reforms
To ensure energy efficiency in rental housing becomes the norm, we also need rental protections . When renters are struggling to find a roof over their heads and fear unreasonable price increases or eviction - they do not ask for energy efficiency even when they understand its importance. That is why we support the full range of reforms for renters that Make Renting Fair call for. In particular capping rent increases at CPI will have an important impact in the roll out of EEMS to ensure rents remain affordable.
I look forward to a future where all rental homes are healthy and the energy required to keep them at a comfortable temperature in summer and winter is not excessive.