Sustainable Living for Renters

Welcome to the City of Cockburn! We trust you will enjoy living here. Whether you’ve already moved into your rental property or are still looking, we’ve prepared this information for you to understand the possibilities of adopting a sustainable lifestyle while renting.

Many Australian households are feeling the strain of rising electricity, gas and water prices. The global issues of climate change and our drying climate, mean that we all need to rethink the way we live. The good news is that there are many changes you can make to help reduce your bills while on a budget.

Renting and the law

As a tenant in a rental property, you have certain rights, but you must be aware of your obligations and responsibilities. Contact Tenancy WA if you need advice.

For more information on your rights as a renter, grab a copy of ‘Renting a home in Western Australia: a tenants guide’, which is available from the City of Cockburn’s Financial Counselling Services.

Home improvements will always require your landlord’s permission, unless otherwise covered in your tenant lease agreement.

There are two common lease types, fixed term and periodic leases:

Fixed term lease

  • Usually for six or 12 months
  • Has a definite start and end date
  • Your landlord needs to give you 30 days’ notice.

Periodic Lease

  • No fixed term
  • No definitive start or end date
  • 21 days’ notice (tenant); 60 days’ notice (lessor).

 Remember to make any requests and correspondence in writing where possible. That way, if you and your landlord have a disagreement, you will be covered.

Looking for a new home?

There are a few ‘spot checks’ you can do before deciding to take on a new rental home that can avoid issues later.

Actions

  • When looking for a rental property, take a compass with you, to see if some of the windows face north so you can benefit from winter sunlight and warmth.
  • Avoiding homes with large, west facing windows will reduce intense afternoon heat in summer
  • Ask the agent/landlord whether it has ceiling insulation. Homes with raked or cathedral ceilings may have poor insulation (or none at all).
  • Look for ceiling fans
  • Check for draughts
  • Check for leaking taps and toilets.

Rebates and tax deductions

The City of Cockburn offers a number of sustainable living incentives and rebates including, free home energy and water audits, birdbath rebates, worm farm and composting subsidies and sustainability grants
 
Your landlord may be eligible for tax deductions for improvements to the home that make it more waterwise and energy efficient. Your landlord may be more open to suggestions if you chat to them about tax incentives available for improvements to the home.

Home energy use

You can borrow a Home Energy Assessment Toolkit from one of the City’s libraries for free, which will help you make your home more energy efficient and thermally comfortable. This kit includes a hand-held power meter to measure the electricity consumption of appliances.

Greenpower

If you don’t have solar panels at home, you can choose to switch to EasyGreen or NaturalPower, which means that Synergy will buy renewable energy on your behalf. Your household can reduce its carbon footprint by an average of 50 per cent, just by switching to one of these green power products. Buying 100% green power will add approximately $5.50 per week to the household bill if you use 15 units per day. If you’re on a tight budget, you may be entitled to an energy rebate if you are a concession card holder. Contact Synergy for more information.

Lighting

The cheapest way to get light into your home during the day is to use natural light, which is as simple as opening your curtains.  LED Lamps use the least energy to make the most light so they will save you money over time.

Actions

  • Avoid lighting rooms with inefficient halogen downlights
  • Replace your lighting with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (fluorescent globes) or better still, LEDs which last longer and contain no mercury.

Kitchen

Your kitchen can be a large energy and water consumer and there are many changes you can make here, even if you’re on a tight budget. 

Kitchen appliances

Dusty coils or faulty seals may prevent fridges from effectively regulating temperatures within the appliance. Your fridge will also have to work harder if it’s in a warm place, such as outside or in an uninsulated shed.

Actions

  • Replace door seals if they no longer seal properly. Your fridge will use more energy if the seals are faulty
  • Does the freezer need de-frosting? If so, do it!
  • Check the coils at the back of the fridge for dust and clean them
  • Turn off your second fridge and save up to $200 per year
  • Set your fridge to run at an optimum temperature between 3°C to 5°C.
Ovens and cooking

When looking for a home to rent, note what type of stovetop and oven it has. Gas cookers are cheaper to run than standard electric cookers, reducing your household emissions.

Ovens also have door seals, which, if faulty, will allow heat to escape, increasing your utility bills and energy use.

Actions

  • Use small appliances where possible
  • Try to use fitted lids on pots when cooking
  • Boil only the amount of water you need
  • Thaw frozen food in the fridge and avoid using the microwave
  • Keep preheating times to a minimum in electric ovens. In gas ovens, preheating is not necessary
  • Test the seals on your oven. If they’re not operating efficiently, let your landlord know that they need to be replaced.
Water conservation

Water is a precious resource and whatever measures we can take to conserve it are both a cost saving and an environmentally positive outcome.

Actions

  • Consider fitting flow restrictors or aerators on your taps. Only use your dishwasher when it is full
  • Act ASAP on dripping taps. One dripping tap can waste 20,000L per year! Check your lease with respect to whose responsibility this is and make note in your property report
  • Ask your landlord to consider fitting taps with aerators or flow restrictors.

Living areas and bedrooms

Living areas and bedrooms are places of relaxation, so they should be comfortable. There are a number of natural ways create a comfortable space, without bumping up the heating or cooling, or throwing on the electric blanket!

Actions for cold months

  • Seal draughts! Consider buying or making a door snake, which is a cheap and easy way to seal draughts
  • If you don’t have pelmets for curtains or blinds, ask your landlord.
  • Heat only the room you are using
  • If you can, let the sunshine in from the northern side of your home, taking care to close curtains/blinds when the afternoon cools down
  • In winter, use blankets before an electric blanket. Get your kids into sleeping bags in the coldest weather before putting heaters in their rooms
  • Use solar passive principles when choosing a bedroom. Rooms on the southern side of the home let the least amount of light in. Rooms with east–facing windows will mean very early light in summer, while west–facing windows will warm your bedroom on summer afternoons.

Actions for hot months

  • Shade your windows from the summer sun
  • Open the windows to let out the heat at the end of hot day
  • If you don’t have security or flyscreens on your windows, ask your landlord if they can install them. Combined security/flyscreens on some doors and windows are a fantastic investment and let in the cool sea breeze in summer
  • If you are a senior, or pensioner, Cockburn offers a subsidy for security devices, even if you are renting.

Bathrooms and laundry

There are many easy actions you can take to conserve water in the bathroom and laundry.

Bathrooms

Actions

  • Use the dual flush function of your toilet, or ask your landlord to install one
  • Check your shower head. Does it use 9L minute or less? (If not, ask your landlord if they can install a water efficient shower head
  • Make note of any leaking pipes, taps and toilets in your property condition report
  • Try to find a rental with gas boosted (solar) hot water. Your energy use and bills will be much less than with a standard electric system
  • Turn the booster off for all warm months and, in winter, at times of the day when you don’t need hot water
  • While your shower is warming up, collect the cool water in a bucket and use on the garden
  • Set your thermostat to a maximum of 60˚C (storage hot water) and 42˚C (instantaneous systems)
  • Consider a shower timer and make the effort to limit your shower time to four minutes.
Laundry

Actions

  • Choose biodegradable and phosphate free detergents. They are a safer option for the environment and your health
  • Wash only full loads and in cold water
  • If your washing machine needs replacing, replace it with a higher star rating machine – it will save you money. The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) Scheme can make choosing a water efficient replacement easier
  • Hand washing? Use a plug!

Outside the home

Waste and recycling

With your help, nearly all household waste in the City of Cockburn can be diverted from landfill! As well as knowing how to dispose of your waste, look for ways to avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle as often as possible.

Start by making sure you are separating and disposing of waste correctly, via your two bin or three bin system.

Worm farming and composting

Consider starting home composting or worm farming. Worm farming will suit your circumstances if you don’t have a long lease and may have to move fairly soon – as you can carry your working worm farm by car to your next home. The City of Cockburn has generous rebates for compost bins, worm farms and bokashi buckets and runs free workshops every couple of months.

Actions

  • Take a reusable shopping bag with you when you shop. Keep some in your car for bigger trips
  • Use containers for food instead of cling film (or use clear shower cap!)
  • Buy in bulk, when practical, to minimise packaging. Get your free copy of the City of Cockburn’s household waste disposal information
  • Find out what happens to your waste: the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council offers free tours of its Regional Resource Recovery Centre
  • Check out the City’s compost bin subsidies!

Transport

Public transport, bicycles and your own two feet are a great alternative to private vehicle use.

Transperth’s Journey Planner is a handy tool for planning your next trip by public transport. If you’re new to the area, joining a local walking group can be a fun way to get to know your neighbourhood. You may be surprised at how close you live to different facilities. The City of Cockburn has many great walking groups.

Actions

  • Look for a home close to where you spend a lot of time (work, friends, uni, family, local shops)
  • Investigate your nearest public transport stops. Find out where your local public transport service goes to and comes from, and what other routes it connects to
  • Use the Transperth Journey Planner

Apartment living

Many of the actions for houses also apply to apartments. Below are some more things you can do to live sustainably whilst renting an apartment.

Actions

  • Replace external lighting with energy efficient bulbs
  • Check that the lighting in stairwells isn’t on longer than it needs to be, or during daylight hours. If you notice that it is, tell your landlord
  • Central heating and cooling systems need to be well shaded and well ventilated. If not, tell your landlord
  • If you have a communal laundry area, put up signs encouraging other residents to wash in cold water
  • If you have a communal waste storage area, put up signs letting other residents know how to use them (available from Recycle Right)
  • If you don’t have a clothesline in the complex, ask for one to reduce your need to rely on electrical dryers, or get a small clothes airer
  • Talk to your neighbours about changes you’re making – it’s a great way to share ideas and network.

 Financial counselling

The City of Cockburn offers Financial Counselling Services to help people gain economic independence.

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Contact

Address

9 Coleville Crescent,
Spearwood 6163

Po Box 1215, Bibra Lake DC,
Western Australia, 6965

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