The team at Rental Trends are very good. They tell me exactly what needs to be done and I trust their recommendations, trust the directness and find all the team to be learned in the legislation. They are always willing to provide me with the facts. Annie Longman
As parts of Australia are sweltering through an intensifying heatwave, many people are taking steps to ensure their homes are cool enough.
And for those in rentals, it can be tough knowing what you can and can't ask your landlord to help cool down your living arrangements.
Several renters have told the ABC about their experiences in asking for upgrades to beat the heat, so we've taken a look at what you're entitled to do.
Rental was like 'living in a sauna'
Olivia* spent almost 12 months renting an apartment in Brisbane that was "like living in a sauna".
She and her partner signed the lease with an understanding the landlord would install an air-conditioning unit.
Without it, she said the heat and humidity was oppressive.
"We weren't sleeping at night. Through the day, we were just sitting on the couch sweating. It was having an impact on both our work and personal lives," she said.
Olivia said persistent emails to the property manager proved unsuccessful.
"It was becoming really tedious and difficult and we felt very awkward trying to broach the topic," she said.
The couple sought quotes and even offered to cover the cost of the unit, which was finally installed after they broke the lease.
"If we'd known [the landlord would] install an air conditioner at no stage while we were there, then we'd probably have looked to go somewhere else," she said.
Are landlords required to keep tenants cool?
Real Estate Institute of South Australia (REISA) policy advisor Paul Edwards said it wasn't up to your landlord to do anything.
"There is a bit of a perception out there for tenants that it is a landlord's obligation to provide air conditioning or shutters," he said.
"All I can say is that it isn't the obligation."
However, some landlords have told the ABC they went out of their way to ensure a property was well equipped for heat.
"We rented for years and never had luck with that kind of request," one said.
"As a landlord I have ensured my property has dishwasher, washer, dryer, air conditioning, ceiling fans, and blinds installed. It's my tenant's home."
But, again, there are no obligations.
"Just because landlords have a house to rent, they may not have much spare cash," she said.
So, how do you convince your landlord?
If you have been a reliable tenant, it could be as simple as putting a request to your landlord.
Mr Edwards said they might be more receptive if a tenant offered to shoulder some of the cost or pay higher rent.
"If you had a tenant who went to a landlord and said, 'I'd like to put up some blinds, I'm happy to pay for them', then you would be a stupid landlord if you didn't agree," Mr Edwards said.
"We encourage landlords to listen to a tenant who wants it, you actually do want a good tenant and you want the tenant to renew the lease."
But, it's important to remember landlords might not have the means to cover upgrades to a rental property.
"I have great tenants and try to keep them happy. Unfortunately, if they asked for aircon to be installed — luckily the house already has it — I would probably have to just do one room," one landlord told the ABC.
"I couldn't afford anything else."
And if a landlord or agent says air conditioning or fans will be installed when looking at a rental property, make sure to get the assurance in writing before signing a lease.
What are the rules across the states?
In SA, current legislation only requires landlords to maintain fittings and ensure they are in working order.
Mr Edwards said interstate reforms allowed tenants to have pets and make minor modifications to properties — like installing blinds.
While there are differences between states, it seems most operate with broadly similar principles, without legislative requirements for landlords to install cooling devices in homes.
In a 2017 consumer advice notice, the WA Government said it was the job of landlords to ensure property maintenance — but only on "contents already provided".
"You are responsible for the upkeep of the property, for example plumbing and the maintenance of contents already provided such as the stove, hot water system, or air conditioner," it said.
According to state peak body Tenants Victoria, "anything provided by the landlord must be maintained and repaired if necessary".
That is not the case if the air conditioner was damaged due to a tenant's lack of care.
If the unit breaks down on its own, however, tenants and landlords can both have obligations.
Fair Trading NSW states that if urgent repairs are required, the tenant should immediately contact the landlord or agent:
"If urgent repairs are not done within a reasonable time, you can arrange for the work to be completed and be reimbursed, up to $1,000 by the landlord."
What can you do if your landlord says no?
Rachel Pogson told the ABC her landlord refused a request to install ceiling fans and fly screens.
But in a tough Sydney rental environment, she can't afford to move anywhere else.
"I can't open a window at night and have to shut the house up so it's dark during the day," she said.
"Pedestal fans don't cut it … if there's a stretch of days over 30, it's stifling."
Ms Pogson said during the heat this summer she will stay with family in Newcastle as much as possible, to escape the heat.
But there are other ways to cool down your property and modify your living arrangements to keep cool when the weather becomes unbearable.
For example, during the current heatwave outback publicans have resorted to wetting their roofs by switching their rooftop sprinklers on to bring down the temperature inside.
SA's State Emergency Service had advised people to sleep in the coolest part of the property, adding ice cubes to drinking water and filling a spray bottle with water.
However, wider scale relief might need action from councils, who have been urged to plant more trees to reduce heat in urban areas.
And at a national level, there are calls for minimum energy efficiency standards to be introduced for rentals, which could reduce the need to heat or cool properties as much, reducing the cost for tenants.
Do the rules need to change to ease the burden on renters?
Ross Womersley from the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) said he was concerned about the welfare of people on low incomes and those who rent modest homes.
"[Those tenants] are likely to be in properties that simply don't have the environmental protections that many of the top end properties would have," he said.
"With climate change and its impacts, it's highly likely that we will see many more instances where we experience climate events that are really, really uncomfortable."
Mr Womersley said there are not regulatory structures to compel landlords to build properties that protect tenants in hot weather conditions or have older properties retrofitted.
"We've repeatedly been calling on both government — at a state and a federal level — to be making these provisions," he said.
"We should be ensuring that all properties that are being built are up to a very high environmental standard, in order to ensure that in the long term, we're protecting everybody in our community from these events."