The financial counsellors working on Consumer Action’s National Debt Helpline service provided financial counselling to over 11,000 people in the 2018/19 financial year. Often issues with low quality rental properties or disputes with rental providers are identified as key contributors to the financial issues people face when calling this service.
We have observed that 14% of callers to the National Debt Helpline Consumer Action report issues with energy debt. Those calling who live in private rentals or public housing report energy debt more often than other callers. A lack of minimum standards for energy efficiency for rental housing has put renters at greater risk of debt due to split incentives for rental providers and renters that could only be overcome by regulation.
In our response to the Department of Justice and Community Safety on the the Residential Tenancies Regulations 2020 Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS), we support proposed reforms to tenancy regulations that improve rights and access to justice for renters seeking to resolve issues.
To make sure renters in Victoria have a right to healthy homes that are affordable to heat or cool, the proposed regulations on energy efficiency minimum standards in the RIS must be strengthened. Heater standards should be at a higher and consistent level in all properties. Measures like draught proofing, energy efficient hot water and insulation must also be pursued as a priority.