Private landlords across England and Wales have been urged to check their EPC ratings (Energy Performance Certificate) ahead of new laws that could class their properties as unlettable.
The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015, which are due to come into force on 1st April 2018, will make it illegal for landlords to agree new lets or the renewal of tenancies for properties with EPC ratings below E – unless the property is registered as an exemption.
On the energy efficiency rating scale of A to G, G is the least efficient.
The regulations will apply to all non-exempt domestic rental properties from 1st April 2020, including pre-existing tenancies.
With at least one in six private rental properties expected to fall below the required standard, legal expert Danielle Hughes, of Kirwans law firm, is urging landlords to improve their EPC ratings now in order to avoid huge problems next year.
She explains: “Landlords have been hit with a raft of new regulations over the past 18 months, and many have found it extremely difficult to keep up with the increasing obligations and ever-changing legislation.
“As a result, I have serious concerns that many landlords may be completely unaware that their properties could fall below the new minimum legal requirements for energy efficiency standards in England and Wales. This would mean that they could unknowingly be letting sub-standard property in direct breach of the new regulations.”
Hughes continues: “Landlords would be at risk of prosecution, which must be enforced by local authorities with a civil penalty of up to £5,000 imposed for breaches. The local authority must also serve a compliance notice upon the landlord, asking them to bring the property up to the required standard.”
The new legislation covers self-contained flats and, while bedsits do not strictly require an individual EPC, if the bedsit is within a property that already has an EPC, then it can only be let if regulations have been complied with.
However, there are some exemptions, notably, building and monuments officially protected as part of a designated environment, or because of their special architectural historical merit. This includes some listed buildings.
Other excluded domestic properties include: temporary buildings with a planned timed use of two years or less; residential buildings that are intended to be used for less than four months of the year; and standalone buildings with a total usable floor space of less than 50 square metres.
Hundreds of landlords are expected to be hit by the new laws, according to data released by Urban.co.uk. The online estate agent surveyed 4,000 UK landlords on a number of rental market issues in its Landlord Knowledge Survey. Its findings back up Hughes’ fears that many existing private landlords are simply unaware of the new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards.
But, Hughes explains, there are moves that landlords can take now to improve their EPC ratings.
She says: “Some properties may only need a couple of inexpensive tweaks to bring them in line with the new regulatory requirements, while others may require substantial works, which come at a cost. Landlords have to balance this work against the risk of them being in breach of the legislation, and facing a criminal conviction and penalty fine. As long as the rating is at a minimum of E, it is up to them which methods they chose to improve the property.
“Careful assessment of the options and setting an appropriate plan of action over the next 12 months is the best way to ensure that the properties are ready and fully compliant by April 2018. Planning now will also have the obvious benefits of spreading the cost and making sure that the relevant third party contractors are available to undertake any necessary work.”
She adds: “Before scheduling a visit from a domestic energy assessor, landlords should spend some time looking at the different methods of improving their property’s energy efficiency rating and choose which is right for them.”
Here are Hughes’ top five ways to improve your rental properties’ EPC ratings:
Insulation: Fit new loft insulation so that it measures at least 270mm in depth. Look into grants and funding options to see if your property qualifies. Ensure that any cavity walls are also insulated.
Heating: If you’re able to invest a little bit more, then consider replacing an old boiler with a new condensing one. As well as hugely improving EPC ratings, this could also reduce running costs by hundreds of pounds each year, making the property much more appealing to prospective tenants. If you want to boost your EPC score even more, then look at introducing updated heating controls too, such as boiler programmers, room thermostats and individual Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs).
Lighting: There are many ways that you can improve lighting efficiency, but switching from halogen to more energy efficient lighting will have a big impact for relatively little cost. Introducing Low Energy Lighting (LEL), Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL), or Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) can make a real difference.
Double-glazing: Replacing single-glazed windows with double-glazed units will have the dual effect of sprucing up your property while giving its energy efficiency a boost.
Draught-proof doors and windows: Look around windows, doors, loft hatches and floorboards to identify draughty area, then address the best way to prevent the draught, such as excluders, fillers or curtains. The Energy Savings Trust estimates that the materials for draught-proofing an entire property could cost between £85-£275 if you want to do it yourself – hiring a professional could cost considerably more.
If you plan to make some changes that will take a considerable length of time, remember that we provide Unoccupied Property Insurance to protect your property while it is undergoing works: https://www.justlandlords.co.uk/unoccupiedinsurance