Following some confusion and debate about a deferral for the new standards following the MEES* deadline in April 2018, the new government has confirmed that changes to the EPC rules, preventing landlords from renting out homes below rating E, will definitely be introduced from April 2018.
According to a recent communication the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has had confirmation from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that there will be no putting off the MEES implementation date for residential lettings.
From next April all residential lettings (new and renewal tenancies) must reach a minimum Energy Performance Certificate rating of E, or it will be an offence to rent them out. All existing tenancies will need to comply by April 2020.
Any landlord with properties with EPC ratings below E (F or G) are now on notice that these must be improved before signing up a new tenant, or renewing an existing tenant’s contract.
It had been suggested that an initial cap of £5,000, which landlords would be expected to spend to bring a property up to standard, would be applied, but until the government publishes more retailed guidance (expected in the autumn) this cannot be confirmed.
It has however been confirmed that listed buildings will be exempt the exact standard, on condition that landlords have carried out work to the extent they are permitted under the planning rules, to make them as energy efficient as possible, and the properties will have to be registered online.
Older properties including stone and brick terraces, cottages and Victorian and Edwardian homes are likely to need the most work to bring them up to standard, as these properties are likely to have solid walls with no cavities, and many will lack double glazing, underfloor and loft insulation.
5 Steps to Improve Energy Efficiency:
- Loft Insulation
This is one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective measures to start with. The recommended depth of blanket style insulation (glass or mineral wool) for a loft is 250 to 270 mm. If you already have insulation, but it was put in some time ago, it is worth checking the depth, as only a few years ago the recommended depth of insulation was 200mm, and before that it was as low as 100mm.
- Wall insulation
Uninsulated walls account for up to 33% of the heat lost in a home. Filling cavity walls can save up to a lot per year for the average home, and reduce carbon emissions by a tonne. This doesn’t come cheap as cavity wall insulation cost £500 upwards depending on the size of the property – but there may be grants available to help with the cost. Look under the ‘search for grants and offers’ section on the Energy Saving Trust website, which will tell you more about offers available in your area.
If the property has solid walls, these may need to be insulated either internally, externally or both. There are several methods of doing this, some more expensive than others. To insulate solid walls internally, you can fit insulation boards to the walls. This is otherwise known as dry lining. It involves fixing insulation material to the inner side of a solid external wall, and then covering it with plasterboards or cladding. The thicker the board the more effective it will be in insulating the house, but it can be impractical as it reduces the amount of floor space in a room. Most boards are around 100mm. Alternatively, there are some wall coverings not much thicker than wall paper that will at least provide some insulating qualities much more cheaply.
To insulate solid walls externally, a layer of insulation material needs to be fixed to the walls with adhesive, then covered with cement or cladding. Both will change the appearance of a house externally, so this is less appealing than insulating internally. Rendering the exterior walls can be expensive and care must be taken not to create damp issues.
- Double Glazing
If there is no double glazing fitted, this will make a big difference to energy efficiency but it is a relatively expensive job. Your initial investment will be fairly high but double-glazed windows will trap more heat inside a home, meaning they will save tenants money in the long term. Double glazing is available in a variety of styles, so it doesn’t have to ruin the look of a home. When you are choosing your windows, look out for the ‘Energy Saving Trust recommended’ logo as this seal of approval is only given to the more efficient windows.
- Boiler Upgrade
Inefficient boilers could be adding considerably to your tenant’s energy bills? That means that upgrading could be a great way to dramatically reduce a home’s carbon emissions and improve the EPC rating as boilers account for 60% of the carbon dioxide emissions in a gas heated home. Boilers are rated on a scale of A to G, with A being the most energy efficient. If yours is old and at the lower end of the scale then investing in a new one could save dramatically long-term.
- Cut out Draughts
Close fitting doors and windows will cut down on draughts and cooling airflows, which will dramatically reduce energy loss and the cost of heating for tenants.
Some landlords will consider fitting solar panels to the roof if there is a suitable south-facing aspect, but these are obviously expensive investments initially, which will only pay off over a long period.
With all of these measures to improve your properties, if you use contractors to do the work, take care because there are a lot of fraudsters around in these industries. Try to get recommendations, inspect previous work, consult with satisfied customers and draw up specification contracts before commissioning any work.
*The minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES) was introduced in March 2015 by the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015. The MEES Regulations originate from the Energy Act 2011 which contained the previous coalition government’s package of energy efficiency policies including the Green Deal.