Following the introduction of new energy efficiency standards on 1st of June 2020, local authorities are being tasked with identifying still underperforming properties.
For some time now residential landlords in England and Wales have had to ensure that their properties meet the minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of “E”, helped by relatively generous government funding grants.
The problem up and down the country is that there are just too many rentals on the market that still do not meeting the minimum standards for local authorities to monitor in a timely manner given the current pandemic crisis and their staffing resources.
In some cases, these properties still require extensive remedial work to bring them up to standard, and despite having years of notice, many landlords have failed to take action either because of ignorance of the regulations or their unwillingness to spend time and money on the problem.
Plenty of time
The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) came into force in England and Wales on 1 April 2018, so landlords have had plenty of time to take action if they own properties are in need of improvement.
The rules apply to private rented residential and non-domestic property and are aimed at encouraging landlords and property owners to improve the energy efficiency of their properties by making it unlawful to create new tenancies initially, and then the requirement from April 2020 to upgrade properties with existing tenancies.
The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard Rating of E as measured by the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) assessment sets out the energy efficiency rating of a property and with recommendations on improving its energy efficiency. Any property (with a few limited exceptions) that has been marketed or let since 2008 requires a current EPC which lasts for 10 years.
New funding for council inspections
Borough and district councils across the UK are responsible for enforcing the rules but the government is worried that progress is too slow.
Councils across England and Wales are to receive extra government funding to carry out more inspections and to enforce energy efficiency standards in rented homes. Recent investigations have revealed that so far, most local authorities have been making little effort to enforce the new standards and penalise those flouting the rules.
It has been estimated that at least 290,000 rented homes will need to be improved if they are to meet the minimum standard and the government expects local authorities to crack down on landlords with properties that don’t meet the standard. Landlords can face fines of up to £5,000 for inaction.
Landlords owning below standard properties will likely have to install energy-efficiency measures including wall attic and insulation, double glazing and heating system / boiler upgrades.
Of the 268 authorities which responded to a Freedom of Information request from inews.co.uk asking for details of MEES enforcement, only 17 had taken any enforcement action.
Some councils told the news publication that ‘enforcing the rules was deemed a “low priority”, despite evidence suggesting up to half of tenants in affected properties are living in fuel poverty.’
Individual councils are now able to claim up to £100,000 from central government to help them enforce the rules. The government wants them to “drive upgrades in the worst-performing private rented homes”. A total of £2m is to be invested in this drive, with councils to be prioritised according to financial need.
This additional funding aims to help councils introduce a “formulated approach for enforcing requirements” under the rules, the government says. This will be essential it says for future plans to tighten the MEES standards further to include EPC ratings of D by 2025, and C by 2030. Without effective enforcement, experts warn it is unlikely those tougher standards will be met.
Read more about MEES.