Every rental property in the UK needs an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This documents the property's energy use and typical energy costs and recommendations on how to reduce both.
This documents the property's energy use and typical energy costs and recommendations on how to reduce both. An EPC also gives your property an energy-efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).
In this guide, we'll clarify the importance of EPC ratings, explain how to improve them, and answer questions landlords frequently ask about this topic. If you want to know how to get your rental property assessed for an EPC, read our separate guide.
Why improve an EPC rating?
There are several reasons you might need to improve your rental property's EPC rating. First and foremost, it is unlawful for you to let your property if it doesn't meet the required minimum rating of E.
As well as helping you comply with the law, a better EPC rating could attract eco-conscious tenants and potentially increase your property's value. Moreover, you'll be better prepared for the government's proposed changes to a minimum EPC rating of C for new rental home tenancies in 2025 and all tenancies in 2028.
Eight ways to improve your property's EPC rating
To improve your rental property's EPC rating, you must make changes to enhance its energy efficiency. Here are eight actionable ways to achieve this:
- Upgrade the lighting to LED light bulbs
- Insulate the walls and roof
- Invest in double or triple-glazed windows
- Upgrade the boiler
- Install underfloor heating
- Install a smart meter
- Invest in renewable energy
- Seek help from your energy supplier
Before you attempt to improve your property's EPC rating, remember that it could be more cost-effective to carry out a whole house retrofit – in which you tackle insulation, windows and heating systems in one go – rather than carry out a series of smaller, independent upgrades.
1. Upgrade the lighting to LED light bulbs
If your EPC rating is right on the margins and it won’t take much to lift it one or two levels, switching to LED light bulbs – which are much more energy-efficient and eco-friendly – could make all the difference. One easy way to improve energy efficiency is to replace old halogen or incandescent light bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
LEDs have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their combination of efficiency and long-term savings on energy bills. They also provide a quick and relatively inexpensive way for you to improve the EPC rating of your rental property.
2. Insulate the roof and walls
Installing new insulation is one of the most effective energy-efficiency improvements you can make to your property, particularly if the existing insulation is poor or lacking. It's also likely to be less expensive than alternative improvements, which makes it a popular option for landlords who need a cost-effective way to improve an EPC rating.
Increasing insulation in the loft to at least 270mm thick will significantly impact how much heat escapes; an uninsulated property typically loses up to 33% of its heat through the roof.
Wall insulation is also an effective way of improving a property’s energy rating. This is true for both cavity walls, seen in more modern properties that are built with a gap between two layers of brick, and solid walls – typically featured in older, pre-1920 properties.
However, the costs for wall insulation vary significantly. On average, cavity wall insulation costs from £370-£500 to install in a typical semi-detached property. This makes it an easy, simple, and relatively cheap measure that has the potential to improve your overall EPC rating significantly.
On the other hand, both internal and external solid wall insulation is considerably more expensive to install. Yet this balances against larger potential savings on heating bills. With estimates from £8,000-£22,000 for external solid wall insulation and £3,500-£14,500 for internal, it’s not a cheap option. Because of this, you may want to consider some of the alternative measures in this guide instead.
3. Invest in double or triple-glazed windows
There's no point investing in the latest heating and insulation technologies if you neglect your property’s windows. While double glazing doesn’t have as much potential to improve the EPC rating as wall or loft insulation, it does significantly reduce the amount of heat lost through the windows.
Most modern homes have double glazing. However, this might not be the case for older properties, dragging them close to or even below the minimum energy efficiency rating. Installing new double glazing could help improve your property’s EPC rating by approximately five to ten points. The cost is relatively cheap – likely to be in the region of £2,000-£5,000 for a typical terraced property.
Triple glazing is a more drastic step, yet one that's becoming increasingly popular. This measure can make it more difficult for heat to escape from your home than double glazing. However, it's typically even more expensive than double glazing and only has a small impact on improving your EPC rating.
4. Upgrade the boiler
Heating systems are the cornerstone of a property’s energy efficiency. An inefficient boiler drags a property's EPC rating down, whereas an efficient model can significantly improve. Depending on the age of the existing boiler, switching to a newer condensing model could improve your EPC rating by as much as 40 points.
With the minimum threshold for an EPC rating standing at 39 points, this change could get you to the required standard in one fell swoop. It’s likely to cost you between £1,000 and £3,000, but you could receive this outlay back in spades given the huge potential for improvement presented by this measure.
Pairing this upgrade with smart heating technologies such as intelligent thermostats and connected radiator controls will allow tenants to save on their heating bills and further improve your rating.
5. Install underfloor heating
Installing underfloor heating is an effective way to improve your EPC rating, provided your property has effective insulation. Underfloor heating systems operate at a lower temperature, meaning they consume less energy as long as your property conserves as much heat as possible.
Used as a primary source of heating or in combination with a central heating or radiator system, underfloor heating has the potential to make your property significantly more energy efficient. This is especially the case for water underfloor heating systems – as opposed to electric systems – which are cheaper to run over the long term yet harder to install.
The cost of installing underfloor heating varies and depends on factors such as the type of system, the total area of the installation, and the age of your property. It could cost you anything from £50 to £200 per square metre.
6. Install a smart meter
While installing a smart meter won't directly improve your EPC rating by itself, it does give you better insight into how much energy your property uses.
Smart meters give you a greater understanding of which changes you need to make. They also allow you to measure the effectiveness of these changes in upgrading your property's energy efficiency. Because of this, you'll likely have better success improving your EPC rating if you also have a smart meter installed.
7. Invest in renewable energy
If you're looking for a solution to improve the EPC rating of your property over the long term, it's worth considering renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaic (PV) panels or ground-source heat pumps.
While these alterations carry more initial expenditure, investing in renewable energy also has the potential to significantly improve your property's ongoing energy consumption, saving you money on energy bills.
There have been various government incentives in the past to help landlords with these costs, such as the Green Deal - if such incentives were to return, this would be a more viable option for many landlords.
8. Seek help from your energy supplier
You may be able to get help from your energy supplier for energy-saving improvements to your property under the Energy Company Obligation scheme if your tenants claim certain benefits such as Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Universal Credit, and others. For example, you may be able to get help with the cost of insulation work and replacing or repairing the boiler.
Your property must have an energy efficiency of E, F or G to be eligible, and you will need to work with your tenants to apply for the scheme. You can learn more about the Energy Company Obligation on the government's website.
What is an EPC rating?
An EPC rating is a standardised indication of a property's energy efficiency. This rating comes as part of an Energy Performance Certificate – a document that details the typical energy consumption and costs for a property, together with ways to reduce them.
What is the minimum EPC rating for landlords?
The minimum EPC rating for landlords of private domestic rented properties is E. This requirement was set by changes to the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) regulations on 1 April 2020 and applies to all domestic private rented properties that are:
− Assured, regulated or domestic agricultural tenancies
− Legally required to have an EPC
Why do landlords need to comply with the minimum EPC rating?
Under the MEES regulations, it is unlawful for you to let or continue to let a property until you either improve the EPC rating to at least E or register a valid exemption. This applies to all tenancies, no matter when they started.
Landlords who don’t adhere to the rules could face a civil penalty of up to £5,000 for non-compliance, with the potential fine varying depending on the length of the breach. Tenants can raise a case with the First-Tier Tribunal General Regulatory Chamber if they think their landlord is breaching the legislation.
What are the exemptions to the MEES regulations?
As a landlord, you must comply with the MEES regulations regarding existing tenancies unless you can rely on one of several available exemptions. These include but are not limited to:
Exemption due to devaluation – a temporary exemption of five years will apply if a landlord can demonstrate that the installation of energy-efficiency measures would reduce the market value of the property by more than 5%.
Exemption for new landlords – if a person becomes a landlord recently or suddenly in specified circumstances under the MEES regulations, a temporary exemption of six months will apply. Third-party consent – if a landlord cannot obtain necessary third-party consent to improve the EPC rating of the property (including but not limited to lender consent, superior landlord consent and tenant consent), they may let a ‘sub-standard’ property.
A landlord, or a letting agent on their behalf, wishing to apply for an exemption must register it on the Online Private Rented Sector Exemptions Register.
Local authorities give and keep fines for non-compliance, which incentivises them to enforce the legislation. This means any landlord thinking of trying to skirt around the rules should think again.
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