A small win for energy efficiency: tenants can now request improvements

May 3, 2016

Retrofit with external wall insulation and solar PVs

The 1st of April was a small step forward for energy efficiency: tenants in private rented accommodation now have the right to request energy efficiency improvements according to the Private Rented Sector Tenants’ Energy Efficiency Improvements Provisions.

There are numerous caveats, even loopholes. Nevertheless, where a tenant requests their landlord’s consent to making energy efficiency improvements to the landlord’s property, subject to certain requirements and exemptions, the landlord ‘may not unreasonably refuse consent’. This precedes a more significant change from 2018 when it will become illegal for very poor quality (EPC band ‘F’ and ‘G’) properties to be let – albeit with more conditions and exemptions attached. Important – where a property is let by a registered social landlord but is rented at full local market rate (i.e. it is not low cost rental accommodation) then the property is in the scope below. 

Residents, where to start?

If you are a resident and would like to have the house made more energy efficient, the first step is to check that there have been no funded improvements that have happened in the last six months or the term of tenancy is expiring in less than 3 months with notice of no further renewal.

The next step is to determine which energy efficiency improvements are suitable for installation – these can include energy efficiency improvements or other measures that will help with bills such as a connection to the gas grid. A good way to check which energy efficiency measures best suit the home is to read the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). A landlord is required to provide it at the start of a tenancy and this will include a recommendations page which sets out a tailored list of cost effective improvements which could be made the property.

Funding

This is more problematic, as organising this is responsibility of the tenant; landlords are not yet required to contribute funding for any measures. But dialogue is better than nothing and it may even be that the landlord chooses to fund or part-fund energy efficiency improvements at their property themselves.

Funding can be from one or a combination of sources:

  • the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) (or successor supplier obligation scheme);
  • Central Government or local authority funding, or third party funding, such as a grant;
  • tenant pays some or all of the cost.

Some agencies or advisors still talk about an option of gaining a ‘Green Deal Finance Plan’ please note that this is no longer available. The next ECO funding round is due to start in 2017 –do keep an eye on this as it may be of use then.  Currently the best options for funding could come from the Central Government funding (e.g. Affordable Warmth) or local authority schemes such as this one in Kingston upon Thames. To understand what is available in your area contact the Energy Saving Trust or your local council.  Although the Green Deal was scrapped last year the list of those measures is often used  as a default list for those measures that could receive funding through ECO or local authority funding. 

Once you have identified the energy efficiency improvements and secured the funding (which may be conditional on the landlord giving consent to the improvements); you will have to seek consent from your landlord. They should respond within one month according to Clause 2.2.2. The landlord cannot ‘unreasonably refuse’ consent but they can provide a counterproposal or ask for further information. 

New provisions such as this one are a step in the right direction. Many tenants, especially in big cities like London, are living in with a rental market where reasonable landlords are sometimes in short supply. But raising awareness is often half the battle, especially in a sector dominated by individual landlords, many with only one property.

We would like to hear what do you think about these new provisions?

Daniel Navarro