Every household should have the right to a warm and comfortable home – but many don’t, and those who don’t are more likely to be renting their home privately. The private rented sector is responsible for the largest percentage of poorly insulated homes in the UK, as well as the most residents in fuel poverty. What are the circumstances surrounding energy efficiency, and what are your legal responsibilities as landlord?
Climate and the Cost of Living
The growing discourse surrounding the energy efficiency of domestic households has arrived as a result of two distinct events, each of which are having a profound effect on households in profoundly different ways. For one, the symptoms of climate change are being more keenly felt across the UK, as unusual weather patterns impact infrastructure and personal comfort.
Another, more immediately pressing concern comes in the form of the cost-of-living crisis. The rate of inflation is expected to exceed 10% by the end of the year, a figure largely driven by the stratospheric rise in the cost of household energy.
Ofgem’s energy price cap, once designed as a ceiling to protect customers from predatory energy supplier practices, now serves a different function entirely – and represents the new costs to households for heating their home. Even with costs rising across the board, those on lower wages or in energy-inefficient rented accommodation will be disproportionately affected more.
Legal Obligations as Landlord
There are some key legal obligations placed upon landlords to ensure that their homes meet basic standards for tenants. In relation to energy efficiency, there is one key law which was instituted as recently as 2020. The law requires landlords to ensure their properties meet a Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES), currently defined as an EPC rating of E or higher.
Rented properties that fail to meet the MEES must be brought up to standard, through the investment of up to £3500 (VAT inclusive) in energy-saving measures. However, as the government’s net-zero deadline looms, there remains scope for change in the law – with an EPC rating of C touted as the next minimum standard.
How to Remain Compliant
Aside from the legal obligation to provide a warm, relatively sustainable and energy-efficient home, there is also a moral one – both when it comes to the environment, and the personal situations of your tenants. There are a number of interventions you can make to improve your rental properties’ EPC rating, but the most effective amongst them involve insulating your properties.
You could also effect a transition to a more efficient form of heating, away from conventional boilers; government funding exists to subsidise the installation of air- and ground-source heat pumps, which are powered by electricity to draw heat from outside the home.