Helpful Tips Gavin Dick 24/06/2022

Energy Efficiency, Minimum Standards and Inefficient Housing Stock: What Landlords can do to Prepare for MEES

How can Britain become more energy efficient? It’s certainly a question that outfoxed many a minister throughout the 1970s. In a decade when TV broadcasts would break down on a regular basis due to the energy supply crisis, the UK became used to a state of permanent energy instability.

Yet until quite recently, following the relatively settled decades of the 90s and 00s, policymakers and many members of the public felt that this was a problem consigned to the past. If anyone continued to hold this misconception in January, the crisis in Ukraine almost certainly shattered their illusions concerning the ongoing issue of energy supply. Suddenly, public understanding of the extent of the crisis is at an all-time high given the immediate and shocking rise in energy bills that have hit household earnings.

But other factors have also contributed to public anxiety.

The cost of energy bills was largely forgotten until quite recently – those who wished to save money could switch provider by following the recommendations of personal finance gurus like Martin Lewis (advice that was too often ignored). The move to net zero through decarbonisation was too often couched in dense, inaccessible terms ensuring the subject remained impenetrable to many.

Almost overnight, the game has changed. A heightening of the public’s understanding of the extent of the energy crisis now means the average household is acutely aware of how the energy cap works and how much a Kwh of electricity costs.

On top of this already difficult situation the Government will introduce Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for the private rented sector later this year. With a public consultation in 2021 suggesting that current building requirements on energy efficiency could be raised, now is the time for private landlords to prepare for incoming change.

The NRLA is engaging with the Government about how these reforms will affect landlords and tenants. The private rented sector is often overlooked and, as a result, regulations are made without understanding the disparities within the sector. Too often political dogma prevents support for private landlords because of political dislike of the tenure. The need to support the properties and the people who live and work in the private rented sector in the transition is important. The carrot always works better with landlords than the stick.

We have made the argument to Government that the changes need to reflect the financial position of properties and landlords. A one size fits all approach will not work. The NRLA have argued that a property value should be considered, and lower value properties should have a lower cap. This should be based on the Local Housing Allowance. This would allow a landlord to make the changes to the property within an affordable budget before, if applicable, going on the exemption register. This will reflect the cost of properties and the ability to borrow to finance the necessary energy efficiency retrofitting.

For the majority of properties an improvement in the fabric, windows, loft and wall insulation, low energy lighting, as well as having an efficient boiler, will go a long way towards making their properties more efficient. A property should have done all that the property can achieve fabric wise, before moving to replacing the heating systems. This would mean retaining gas boilers while improvements to the fabric take place. Reducing the overall energy envelop of the property before you change the heating engine. A passport/logbook would support this change.

The NRLA has also called for property passports or logbooks, to give a clearer understanding of the challenges that housing in the sector is facing. An individual property assessment would allow a picture to be developed setting out what is required for that individual property to move to zero carbon. However it’s important to bear in mind that not all properties are capable of being moved to zero carbon.

In short, preparation has to be the watchword for landlords. Where possible try to get ahead of the game by making improvements to your properties where you can, and put yourself in a position where you can best respond to the Government’s future proposals.

Gavin Dick

Gavin Dick Local Authority Policy Officer

Gavin is the NRLA’s Local Authority Policy Officer. He joined the National Landlords Association (NLA) in 2012, and prior to this Gavin worked within the energy sector as a consultant. He has also previously worked for membership organisations in a policy and public affairs role.

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