Australian renters are bracing for a winter in expensive, poorly insulated homes that may be taking a toll on their health.
According to a study conducted by Asthma Australia, renters were nearly twice as likely to report mould than homeowners.
New research from the University of South Australia has found that weak regulations on rental property standards are putting the health of Australian renters at risk.
University of South Australia associate professor in architecture Lyrian Daniel said the COVID-19 pandemic forced housing standards onto the national agenda as people faced job loss and insecurity while confined to their homes.
"As a country we're probably much more aware now of the plight of renters in Australia," Dr Daniels said.
"It's a really tricky time for renters at the moment, simply because there's so much greater demand than there is supply.
"And because we don't have those really solid protections in place that does mean that renters are at a disadvantage."
The research found that adequate housing that supports healthy living needs to be considered as a "social responsibility" following international best practice examples.
"In New Zealand there is really strong community awareness and advocacy.
"There's been a really strong research and advocacy role from research groups and universities that has been directly fed into policy and made an explicit case for policy change," Dr Daniels said.
"In both the UK and in New Zealand, the discourse around the regulations of the minimum requirements speaks to a sense of social responsibility."
Your rights when mould takes hold
Housing that is too cold in winter is linked to cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and mental health, according to the researchers.
Renters are far more likely to face these housing quality issues, including living with mould. But landlords are required to help.
According to the Tenants Union of NSW it is the responsibility of renters in that state to keep premises 'reasonably' clean and to tell the landlord about any damage to the premises as soon as possible.
However, the landlord is also required to provide a dwelling that is reasonably clean and complies with minimum standards 'fit for habitation'.
"Mould is a massive issue facing renters not just in NSW but across the country.
"It has only been made worse by the increase in rain caused by the weather event, La Nina," Tenants' Union of NSW CEO Leo Patterson Ross said.
"We've also seen many renters afraid to assert their rights on mould repairs due to competitive rental markets."
States vary on tenant responsibilities
Roles and responsibilities varied on mould outbreaks in rentals across the country.
Landlords generally have a requirement to address mould caused by leaks, faulty pipes and other structural problems.
In Victoria, landlords must disclose if they have treated mould in the past three years. They are also required to ensure each room is free from mould and damp related to the building structure.
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In NSW, the landlord is required to tell renters about signs of mould and dampness in the condition report and ensure proper ventilation and plumbing.
In Queensland, legislation coming into effect in September mandates that rental properties be free from mould, damp and vermin.
In some cases, it may be up to a tribunal to decide whether the landlord or the tenant is at fault for mould outbreaks.