Landlords may have as little as five years to upgrade their properties to a minimum energy standard or have them banned from the market.
They would face criminal prosecution if they marketed a rental property with an EPC rating of less than E. They are being told to wake up to a new regime, where they must look on higher energy performance certificate requirements as part of an essential health and safety regime.
Around 30 organisations have called for a minimum energy efficiency standard to be legally required of all private rented homes in 2016, and are demanding that a new law is introduced.
Over 180 MPs have so far supported the demand – which would affect an estimated 150,000 rental properties – via an Early Day Motion.
The new law would make it an offence to market rental properties with an EPC rating lower than E, with both landlords and letting agents facing prosecution, although it is not clear yet what the penalties would be.
The organisations demanding the change include charities such as Child Poverty Action Group, local authorities, consumer groups and environmental campaigners including Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund.
If they get their way, the new law would accelerate the Government’s existing proposed timetable by two years.
The Energy Bill, due back before Parliament in the autumn and which ushers in the Green Deal, has had a new clause added to it, outlawing colder rental properties by 2018.
But the campaigners say this is unacceptably late and that the Green Deal proposal leaves too much to chance.
They also argue that it has loopholes. They claim that as long as landlords undertake the improvements for which finance is available under the Green Deal, they would be able to carry on letting out unacceptably cold properties indefinitely: this is because the property might not have been improved to the E banding on an EPC.
The campaigners also say that the Green Deal proposal to allow tenants to ask the landlord for energy improvements would lead to tenants being evicted.
The groups are therefore arguing for a new law requiring basic standards of insulation and heating in private rented properties.
Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus, one of the groups calling for the change, said: “With almost 12 million people expected to be living in fuel poverty when the latest round of price rises hits, tackling this problem is a major issue. Private rented housing is among the coldest and most likely to leak heat – meaning bigger bills and a greater risk to renters’ health.”
“Bringing this requirement into law would save private renters almost £500 a year on average off their energy bill and cut carbon emissions by almost 200 million tonnes a year. Current legislation isn’t enough to make this happen, so we need the UK Government to act to help the many vulnerable households affected.”
We asked Consumer Focus to comment on speculation that landlords would simply sell properties that they felt were too expensive to upgrade, bringing an influx of cold homes into private owner-occupation – private owners being under no compulsion to upgrade their properties.
Gallacher responded: “The need to invest in energy efficiency might put off some landlords, particularly those with older properties. However, we hope responsible landlords will recognise the benefits, not only to their tenants’ health and safety from warmer and cheaper to run homes, but also the long-term improvement to their property, its saleable value and their ability to rent it out.”
“Landlords must start to view these energy efficiency moves as standard health and safety requirements, and incorporate them into their renovation and maintenance programmes, to sustain their property’s marketability.”
“Older housing can be more difficult to make energy efficient. However, Green Deal finance will remove the barrier of upfront cost, and there will be additional support for properties with solid walls. We also urge landlords to, where possible, take advantage of current insulation offers for loft and cavity wall insulation.”
“We would also like to see action to remove barriers for leaseholders; clear planning guidance for listed buildings and conservation areas which are harder to treat; and improved Energy Performance Certificates which make the value of energy efficiency clear to tenants and buyers.”