The introduction of MEES (Minimum Energy Efficient Standards), the new rules which aim to improve the energy efficiency and green credentials of all homes in the private rented sector, is here.
What, though, are the new rules being introduced and how can landlords improve the energy efficiency of their homes if required?
A more energy efficient private rented sector
Since April 1, it's now illegal for landlords to rent out a home to new tenants if it has an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating lower than a band E-. From April 1 2020, this will also apply to all existing tenancies.
The regulations aim to drive up minimum energy efficiency standards in the Private Rented Sector, taking into account increased tenant demand for more environmentally-friendly homes and less energy wastage.
There are some exemptions – including tenancies of less than six months (with no right of renewal), tenancies of more than 99 years, holiday lets and certain listed buildings – but nearly all privately rented homes will have to adhere to the new standards.
There are particular concerns about how MEES could affect rural rental properties, which are typically draughtier and less energy efficient by design than more modern properties.
Landlords respond to demand
According to ARLA Propertymark, the last few years have seen landlords responding to the demand for better quality, better insulated and more energy efficient homes. The number of properties holding an EPC rating of F- or G- has fallen from around 700,000 in 2012 to 300,000 today.
While this is a positive step in the right direction, there are still approximately 300,000 homes that aren’t up to the required E- standard and could become unrentable if they are not upgraded sufficiently.
If you don’t bring your rental homes up to the required standard, you could be faced with fines of up to £4,000 for contravening the new rules. What’s more, you could experience prolonged void periods on empty properties that can’t be let out until they meet the new standards.
Top tips for improving energy efficiency
Fortunately, there are steps (in many cases affordable, simple steps) you can take to improve the energy efficiency of your rental homes.
Double (or triple) glazing – most tenants will expect double glazed windows in this day and age, and it’s a great way of trapping more heat inside a property rather than seeing it escape. It will save money in the long run and can also help to keep outside noise at bay as well as keeping inside noise in.
Boiler upgrade – upgrading to a more energy efficient boiler is a great way of making a home more energy efficient as well as lowering energy bills, which will both have significant appeal to tenants. Boilers are rated A to G (A being the most efficient; G the least efficient) – if your boiler is on the lower end of this scale, it may be worth investing in a more energy efficient one.
Loft insulation – another very effective way of keeping heat in a home, loft insulation can help to prevent energy wastage and allow your heating system to do its job more effectively. Poorly insulated roofs and walls tend to account for the majority of wasted energy in Britain, but this can be easily resolved fairly inexpensively.
Cavity wall insulation – it’s estimated that 33% of a home’s heat is lost through walls that aren’t adequately insulated, so insulating cavity walls is a sure-fire way of improving your property’s energy credentials. In addition to slashing your home’s carbon emissions, energy bills could also be lowered by around £180 a year.
Solar panels – a more expensive option, but also one that could bring long-term rewards. Solar panels could set you back anywhere between £4,000 and £12,000 – and don’t come without their downsides – but you can reclaim your initial investment through selling electricity back to the National Grid via the Feed-In Tariff.
As well as the above, more modest improvements such as water-efficient washing machines, water-saving showerheads, smart meters, draught excluders, thick curtains and appliances such as eco kettles would all help to improve on energy efficiency without costing the world.
Even after April 1, it’s recommended that landlords work on improving the energy efficiency of their properties to appeal to increasingly eco-conscious tenants.
With green issues dominating the news agenda across the globe – propelled by the battle against plastic and the increasing reliance on renewable energy – the environment (and protecting it) is being taken more seriously than ever and landlords need to reflect this with appropriately tailored homes.
Additionally, a higher criteria for the minimum EPC standard could be introduced in the future, which means it pays to get as high a grade as possible now rather than taking retrospective action at a later date.