Is more guidance needed for landlords to meet the EPC regulations?

Reducing the negative impact of our homes on the environment is crucial if we’re to create a more sustainable future. While progress has been made, an absence of direction on the proposed changes to EPC requirements is contributing to a lack of action. In this article we highlight the need for clearer and more definitive guidance from the Government.

Much has been said about the proposed changes to the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings of private rented sector properties and it’s an issue that has been on our radars for some time. Despite this, there are signs that there is still much to be done if the sector is to overcome the significant challenge of ensuring all rented homes are rated EPC C or above by 2028.

One of the primary reasons for this is the scale of the issue.

Corresponding to the rise in buy-to-let mortgage lending, noteworthy improvements have been made to the energy efficiency of homes within the private rented sector. Between 2009 and 2019, the proportion of homes with EPC ratings of A, B or C more than doubled, increasing from 13.5% to 38.3%, English Housing Survey (EHS) stats show.

This shows that although progress has been made, a substantial number of PRS properties currently fall short of the standards proposed by the Government.

Central to this is the profile of PRS stock.

With construction techniques, technology and materials all improving over time, age is considered the biggest single factor in the energy efficiency of homes.

EHS data reveals that just short of a third (32.4%) of PRS homes were built before 1919. For comparison, 19.9% of owner-occupied properties and 6.5% of homes in the social housing sector date back to the same period.

With landlord research also revealing how terraced houses, many of which were built during the Victorian era, are the most common buy-to-let property, owned by just under one in six, a picture of the scale of the challenge starts to emerge.

With older properties less likely to be able to meet the proposed standards, it would seem logical for investors to stop buying them and instead opt for newer, more energy efficient homes.

However, we’re not seeing significant changes in buyer behaviour.

Industry data shows that terraced houses continue to be the dominant type of home purchased by landlords, with a strong increase since October last year.

Up until the end of last year when they were marginally overtaken by semi-detached houses, terraced homes have consistently been the most popular property type buy-to-let investors also plan to buy going forward.

So, why are landlords continuingly, increasingly in fact, buying homes that typically have poorer energy efficiency and can be difficult to upgrade?

Tenant demand is a big factor. Older properties tend to have larger rooms and more outdoor space, things that have increased in importance as the pandemic has given rise to home working and placed added emphasis on wellbeing.

In addition, the current stock shortages could mean that there simply aren’t enough newer properties for landlords to buy, whilst new builds generally carry a price premium. There is also evidence to suggest that a lack of awareness of the proposed changes is a contributing factor.

We can see that landlords are aware and adhere to the current rules on the energy efficiency of their buy-to-let properties, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) regulations. The results of a survey of over 700 landlords showed that 97% have an awareness of MEES regulations, with the majority, 88%, indicating that they are fully aware and understand their responsibilities, while 9% said they were aware but didn’t understand the details. The remaining 3% of landlords had no awareness of the legal requirements.

But a similar survey of over 800 landlords showed that awareness of the proposed EPC changes is lower. Just over four in ten landlords (42%) stated that they had no awareness of the proposed changes, with an additional 28% saying that they were aware but didn’t understand the details.

With so many old properties likely to require costly adaptations to bring them up to what is expected to be the required standard, there will be substantial demand for materials and tradespeople, often in short supply of late, as well as trained professionals to assess properties.

These are just a few examples that highlight how meeting any new regulations will require time, money, knowledge and lots of effort – the expected deadline of 2025 for all new tenancies and 2028 for existing ones suddenly looks very close.

While developing policy that has such significant implications should be well thought out, which clearly takes time, and it is encouraging that the Government is engaging with the sector, the current ambiguity contributes to a lack of urgency and action. The sector needs clear and definitive guidance from the Government to avoid a scramble to meet the new standards ahead of that deadline.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (Amendment) Regulations 2022

The rules and regulations for rented accommodation are always evolving and it’s important for landlords to be aware of updates to ensure properties are safe for tenants.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (Amendment) Regulations 2022 will become law in England from 1 October 2022. Landlords who are renting out property will need to ensure the safety measures are in place for both carbon monoxide and smoke.

Since October 2015, landlords in England have been required to install carbon monoxide alarms in properties where a solid fuel heating appliance has been fitted, which is then used by tenants. With the recent amendments passed by Parliament, carbon monoxide detectors will be required in any room where there is any type of fixed combustion appliance. This means oil and gas-fired boilers, in addition to built-in gas fires, will be subject to the new legislation, but gas cookers or hobs are excluded.

Landlords operating in both the private and social sectors will be required to install smoke alarms on every floor of their properties where there is a room that’s used wholly or partly as living accommodation. This includes all rented homes, rented flats, holiday lets and temporary accommodation, also coming into force from 1 October 2022.

The changes to the law will also mean landlords are obliged to fix any problems with existing alarms raised by tenants ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’.

Any landlords who are non-compliant with the regulations from 1 October will face a fine of up to £5,000.

For more information on the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (Amendment) Regulations 2022 visit the .gov website.

Addressing clutter issues in communal areas

The nightmare issue of clutter!

Flat owners leaving their belongings in communal areas is a problem that won’t go away.

Potentially the biggest impact is how it would affect your fire risk assessment and escape plan for the building. Your local fire officer would be horrified to find bikes and buggies in the common parts so expect a lecture about how difficult  firemen would find it to make their way down the corridor, when they are tripping over bikes and other bulky items.

Disposing of bulky items such as bikes, buggies and even mattresses is a costly and time-consuming job that managing agents have to tackle only too frequently.

Those living in unsupervised buildings are the worst culprits

Tenants living in unsupervised buildings are the worst culprits – assuming they won’t be caught dumping their unwanted belongings in or around their block. CCTV cameras can help keep the problem at bay but a better, cheaper solution is to find ways to reuse unwanted items. One of the biggest headaches for residents and their managing agents is abandoned bikes. A purchase in a fitness phase whim turns into an unnecessary headache for a property manager.

You could think of donating any abandoned items to local charity shops if they are in good working order to help recycle some of the unwanted goods.

Here is a simple four-step strategy to tackle any unwanted waste in your building once you’ve reported the matter to your managing agent, which works like this:

  • Step 1 – Letter sent to residents that disposal of items is to occur at a certain date, say 6 weeks hence and clearly explaining the steps that will be taken.
  • Step 2 – Tagging of suspected abandoned items with labels – this can be done by the concierge if is there is one, by the property manager or by a resident willing to get involved.
  • Step 3 – Final notice of disposal tagged on abandoned items for two weeks
  • Step 4 – Removal of items after eight weeks from the start of the process. This ensures that residents have had plenty of time to reclaim their property before it is disposed of.

If your problem is storage rather than abandoned bikes, why not consider clubbing together to buy a bike shed for your block with permission from your landlord. This doesn’t have to be an expensive project and could save a lot of arguments between neighbours over bikes blocking corridors and other communal areas as well as reducing the risk in relation to fire.

Talk to your property manager to alert them of any issues with items in communal areas as this could pose a fire risk and should be addressed quickly.

How to cut utility bills in rental properties

Take a look at the list of measures drawn up buy utilities companies, which offers advice on how tenants and landlords can reduce expenditure this summer on their household bills.

Suggested water savings include:

– Swap baths for showers – opting to reduce the number of baths a household has and swapping for a shower can greatly impact the water usage a household might utilise. A shorter shower uses a third of the water it would use to fill a bath, so even if cutting out baths, in general, is a no-go, try to limit it to just once or twice a week;

– Unneeded running taps – leaving the taps to run whilst doing short tasks, like brushing your teeth or shaving, can pose largely on water usage when considering it is an everyday task. Turning off the tap while doing these routines will reduce the amount of wasted water;- Small wash cycles – by doing large loads of laundry instead of completing numerous half-cycle washes per week, you will save enormous amounts of wasted water and energy. Not only is washing larger cycles more efficient but washing at a reduced temperature will also help reduce energy bills;- Using a dishwasher instead of washing up in the sink – while washing and rinsing small items in the sink may feel like you’re reducing amounts of water, it instead causes litres of water to be wasted, which is why its more efficient to pop any dirty dishes into the dishwasher, wait till its fully loaded and allow a full cycle wash. Be careful not to overuse the machine by half-filling it – as this is also ineffective;- Look at getting a water meter – This may not suit every household, which is why it’s important to look into as it could save you money. Money-saving expert and Martin Lewis suggests looking into it if you have “more bedrooms in your home than people or the same number”.

Suggested gas savings include:

– Install a smart thermostat – there are many advantages to installing a smart thermostat. Due to the technology used inside this gadget, it can understand household patterns in usage and adjust the temperature based on when the home is occupied and not occupied. This effectively will reduce the time that heating and cooling systems are turned on, therefore, reducing the amount of gas;

– Insulate your home – if you struggle to stay warmer in the colder months, it might be worth investing in properly insulating your home. Loft insulation is a great place to start as heat rises, and in a house with no effective insulation, the main exit of heat will be via its roof. Although this is a more costly upfront price, it will pay for itself in the long run;

– DIY heavy curtains – if you want to take a more hands-on approach and avoid large sums of money, DIY some heavy curtains to keep heat in during the colder months. This is an excellent way of insulating your home if you have small bedrooms that let out a lot of heat;

– Hang your washing out – it sounds obvious, but many homeowners are opting for the fast option when it comes to drying clothes and putting them in the dryer. As summer is now upon us, making the conscious effort to hang up your washing in the garden, balcony, or on an inside airer will surely see you saving.

Suggested electricity savings include:

– Turn off standby appliances – You will reduce wasted electricity by turning off appliances that are not in active use or aren’t used at all. It is also noted that purchasing plug sockets that can be turned on/off via your phone are great options if you spend a lot of time out of the house;

– Turn off lights – as easy as it is to leave lights on and forget to turn them off, try to consciously turn off the lights when leaving a room or when you could use natural light instead;

– Use stand-alone devices – using stand-alone devices such as laptops, tablets and phones as opposed to desktop computers; you will reduce your daily power consumption. This can also increase efficiency in work as these devices can be used anywhere at any time;

– Be more efficient when cooking – by using lids on boiling pans and using the right the hob, and utilising the correct kitchenware when cooking, you are more likely to speed up the length of time that the appliance is on for.

 

The right PropTech solution supports letting agents, landlords and tenants

How can technology help the payment process for letting agents?  How can technology sit alongside different jurisdictional compliance requirements around the world?  What are the opportunities to work with client money protection insurers?   How can payment systems fit in with other technology solutions as part of an agent’s technology stack?  What should agents moving into the letting space look for when adopting technology solutions?

PropTech supplier Inventorybase has drawn up a league table of what it calls the private rental sector’s most complained about issues.

After analysing visits to its website section for landlords, it says tenancies and contracts are the biggest issue with 21.49 per cent of all interactions on the forum relating to this category.

Then came maintenance on 16.9 per cent; rent on 15.4 per cent; tenants in situ on 11.1 per cent; and bills on 9.7 per cent.

The issue with the least amount of views was eviction and repossession with only 0.55 per cent of of all interactions relating to this topic.

Keep up to date with everything

Understanding the latest changes to housing laws and making amendments as and when they are necessary will help resolve disputes and make you a better landlord and tenant.

Put disputes in writing and keep an inventory

Always keep an up to date and formal document with any issues you have regarding the property you’re letting. Keep an inventory and a diary and be as specific and as accurate as you possibly can – describing dates and any occurrences which pertain to the dispute. This helps keep both landlord and tenant up to date with factual evidence.

Hire a mediator

Using the help of a neutral third party can help both tenant and landlord feel they are being heard without bias. The mediator will also be best placed to advise whether or not further action is necessary in order to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Focus on the positives and try to compromise

It’s easy to think solely about what you want out of a situation. However a positive solution is often a long term one and the repercussions of your dispute may be felt further down the line. Be willing to compromise and make sure you both communicate effectively.

 

Grant scheme for air and ground source heat pumps opens for landlords

The government has officially opened its Boiler Upgrade Scheme for applications including those from private landlords.

Operated by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, it offers applicants it offers grants to encourage property owners to install low carbon heating systems such as heat pumps, it will now run until 2025.

Landlords can receive up to £5,000 off the cost and installation of an air source heat pump or £6,000 off a ground source heat pump and they are available as a single grant per property.

Air source heat pumps cost between £3,000 and £18,000 depending on property size and age, while ground source ones are more expensive, ranging from £15,000 to £45,000.

Eligibility for the scheme includes first and second homeowners as well as private landlords within England and Wales.

Participating in the scheme does not exclude landlords from applying for other grands such as separate funding for energy efficiency upgrades including insulation, doors or windows.

The only exclusions are properties that have already had government funding or support for a heat pump or biomass boiler, and those which have ab EPC that has includes a recommendation for loft or cavity wall insulation.

Also, hybrid heat pump systems, for example a combination of a gas boiler and air source heat pump, are not eligible.

A separate grant of £5,000 is also available for biomass builders, but only for rural or off-grid properties.

Landlords must first contact an MCS certified installer who will assess the viability and cost of a heat pump system and then apply on their behalf to have the £5,000 deducted from the cost.

The scheme is being managed by energy sector regulator Ofgem.

New Director appointed at IPM

Inspired Property Management is excited to welcome Andrea Barnard MIRPM as Associate Director at Inspired Property Management with immediate effect. This new appointment will strengthen the existing Board and in this new role, and Andrea’s position will support the continued growth and progression of IPM within the industry.

With a career to date of more than 20 years in the property industry, Andrea brings extensive experience in property management, leadership and business strategy gained working in the property industry, delivering to clients across the UK. Andrea’s focus will be on innovation in property management, added value and excellence in customer service delivery.

Commenting on the appointments, Danielle Parker, Director at IPM, said: “I am pleased to recognise Andrea’s commitment to the business and look forward to our continued growth and expansion within the business. Her promotion is yet another strategic investment in our business and a further statement of our ambition. The continued growth of our presence across the North and the development of our residential portfolio are key targets for the business, and I am certain that with Andrea’s new appointment IPM will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Eco-friendly ways to add value and reduce running costs to a property

For property owners looking to make eco-friendly home improvements that might also add value, IPM has provided seven tips.

With the advancement of green heating technology and advancements in materials, homeowners are starting to seriously consider green or renewable ways to run their homes to reduce their carbon footprint.

There are actually a number of ways to run your home while saving some money and doing your bit for the environment. It’s not just the environment that people are concerned with either; energy prices are rising, so it’s no surprise that people are looking for more efficient ways to manage their homes and reduce their costs. If you’re looking for an eco-heating solution, then here are some alternative options available to you:

1. Insulation

Upgrading a home’s insulation, specifically solid wall insulation, is one of the best ways of improving efficiency and reducing energy usage. It costs an estimated £2,750 to do but can boost property value by 3%. Based on the average UK house price of £273,762, this equates to £8,213, adding value to the tune of £5,463. This makes it the most profitable eco-friendly upgrade available to homeowners when it comes to adding value to their home, as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

2. Electric car charging port

Despite the increasing popularity of electric and hybrid cars, it’s still very rare to find a home that comes with its own charge point. Installation is relatively inexpensive, around £800, and can add around 1.5% to the home’s value, adding £3,306 in value.

3. Boiler upgrade

Many homes can still benefit from a good old fashioned boiler upgrade. While notoriously expensive to do, around £2,500, the increased efficiency and longevity that a new boiler provides adds around 1.9% to the home’s value, adding £2,701 in value.

4. Tankless water system

Similarly, if a home uses a tank system for its hot water, in which it uses a large tank to store large amounts of water that must then be heated every time hot water is required, it’s a very good idea to replace it with a tankless heater system. Doing so costs around £1,275 but adds 1.2% to the property’s value, a boost of £1,984.

5. Double glazing

Fitting double-glazed windows throughout the home is very expensive, costing an estimated £6,575. It is, however, an essential step towards creating an energy efficient and warm home and is so important to homebuyers that the improvement adds 3% to the value of a property. Measured against the cost, this brings an added value of £1,638.

6. LED lighting and roof repairs

Increased efficiency and good profits can also be added through installing energy efficient LED lighting throughout the home (£1,069 profit), and addressing any faults or weaknesses with the roof (£987 profit).

7. Solar panels

Despite being one of the most common ways of improving the carbon footprint of a home, it seems they do very little in terms of added value. Installation is expensive, around £5,875, while the value added is estimated to be £1,916, a loss of -£3,959. However, there are obvious savings to be made from reduced utility bills, so if the owner is planning to stay in the home for many years to come, solar panels can still offer good savings.

James Forrester, Managing Director of Barrows and Forrester, comments: “Eco-friendly home renovations and upgrades can be a brilliant way of reducing the running costs of your home, which is something that has been brought into focus due to the spiralling cost of living.

“But they don’t just reduce the day-to-day costs associated with our homes, they can also add value for such a time that you do come to sell.

“In addition to the financial benefits they bring to the home, they can also help us make a positive change with regards to the environment and this eco-friendly conscience is something we are seeing more and more from the modern-day homebuyer.”

Quick tips to save energy

Follow our tips and advice for straightforward ways to save energy, lower your bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

Whether you’re a homeowner, a private or social renter, a student, or you live with your parents, there are many things you can do.

We’re all responsible for the energy we use in our homes. Take a look at our quick tips and see how you could save up to £375 a year* on your bills.

*Savings are for a typical three-bedroom, gas-heated home in Great Britain, using a gas price of 7.4p/kWh and electricity price of 28.3p/kWh (based on April 2022 price cap). Water savings are based on average occupancy. This household is projected to spend a total £1,970 on energy annually, including standing charge. Figures updated March 2022.

Before you start

Understand your energy bill. The information on a typical energy bill can be confusing, but understanding it can go a long way to helping you get to grips with your energy use at home.

1. Switch off standby

You can save around £55 a year just by remembering to turn your appliances off standby mode.

Almost all electrical appliances can be turned off at the plug without upsetting their programming. You may want to think about getting a standby saver or smart plug which allows you to turn all your appliances off standby in one go.

Check the instructions for any appliances you aren’t sure about. Some satellite and digital TV recorders may need to be left plugged in so they can keep track of any programmes you want to record.

Find out which appliances use most energy in your home. 

2. Draught-proof windows and doors

Unless your home is very new, you will lose some heat through draughts around doors and windows, gaps around the floor, or through the chimney.

Professional draught-proofing of windows, doors and blocking cracks in floors and skirting boards can cost around £225, but can save around £45 a year on energy bills. DIY draught proofing can be much cheaper.

Find out more about reducing home heat loss.

3. Turn off lights

Turn your lights off when you’re not using them or when you leave a room. This will save you around £20 a year on your annual energy bills.

Replacing all the lights in your home with LED bulbs could help you save even more.

4. Careful with your washing

You can save around £28 a year from your energy bill just by using your washing machine more carefully:

  • Use your washing machine on a 30-degree cycle instead of higher temperatures.
  • Reduce your washing machine use by one run per week for a year.

5. Avoid the tumble dryer

Avoid using a tumble dryer for your clothes: dry clothes on racks inside where possible or outside in warmer weather to save £60 a year.

6. Spend less time in the shower

Keeping your shower time to just 4 minutes could save a typical household £70 a year on their energy bills.

7. Swap your bath for a shower

Some of us might enjoy a long soak in the bath, but swapping just one bath a week with a 4-minute shower could save you £12 a year on your energy bills.

8. Be savvy in the kitchen

Kettles are one of the most used appliances in the kitchen. But many of us will admit that we at least occasionally boil the kettle with more water than we’re going to use.

Avoid overfilling the kettle and save yourself £11 a year on your electricity bill.

You could also consider fitting an aerator onto your existing kitchen tap to reduce the amount of water coming out without affecting how it washes or rinses. An aerator is a small gadget with tiny holes – they attach to the spout of taps and are cheap and easy to install – and could save you £25 a year.

9. Fill your dishwasher

Only run your dishwasher when it is full to reduce the amount of water you use. Reducing your dishwasher use by one run per week for a year could save you £14.

10. Top up the insulation

Effective insulation of your hot water cylinder is important: even if you have thin spray foam or a loose 25mm jacket, you can benefit from increasing the insulation to a British Standard Jacket 80mm thick, saving £35 a year in the process.

Insulating your water tank, pipes and radiators is a quick and easy way to save money on your bills.

Government launches new service for leaseholders to track Building Safety Fund progress

Leaseholders will be able to track their building owner’s progress on remediation through a new online service, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has announced.

Through the new Leaseholder and Resident Service, which aims to speed up the process of removing unsafe non-aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding from the highest-risk buildings, leaseholders in tower blocks will have access to updates on the status of their building’s application to the government’s Building Safety Fund.

As part of the process, leaseholders will be given a unique code to track their building’s progress.

The government said the online portal, launched today, will expose building owners who are failing to take action to fix their properties by making the process more transparent.

The move follows housing secretary Michael Gove’s building safety announcement last week, during which he promised leaseholders statutory protection from non-cladding costs.

He also said he would force developers to foot a £4bn bill to remove unsafe cladding from buildings between 11 and 18 metres tall.

The Building Safety Fund was launched in May 2020 after chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government would be providing £1bn in funding to remove dangerous non-ACM cladding from buildings taller than 18 metres.

In 2021, the government announced that it would be increasing the funding by £3.5bn.

But the latest figures from the DLUHC, published today, show that progress is slow. None of the social housing blocks granted building safety funding have had their remediation work completed yet.

So far the government has approved £976m for the remediation of non-ACM cladding – £851m for the private sector and £125m for the social sector.

But as of 31 December 2021, the Building Safety Fund’s total expenditure, including both sectors, was only £219m.

Building safety minister Lord Stephen Greenhalgh said: “It is unacceptable that four years after the Grenfell tragedy innocent leaseholders are still living in buildings with unsafe cladding.”

He added that building owners are responsible for making their buildings safe.

“We will no longer allow them to shirk from their duties and hide behind processes and corporate loopholes.

“Everyone – including leaseholders – has a right to know what is happening with their building and to live safely,” he said.

Geeta Nanda, chair of the G15 and chief executive of Metropolitan Thames Valley, said that ensuring residents affected by building safety issues are kept up to date with information is “essential”.

“We welcome the new Building Safety Fund online portal, which will help ensure that the information being provided to residents on this critical funding support is as accurate and up to date as possible,” she said.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said greater transparency over the progress of the Building Safety Find is a “positive move”.

“Housing associations are committed to working with the government to tackle the building safety crisis and support all efforts to protect leaseholders from costs,” she added.

WHY HAS THE GOVERNMENT INTRODUCED THIS SERVICE?

The applicant for the BSF, usually the building owner or managing agent, is responsible for keeping leaseholders and residents updated about the progress of their building’s BSF application. Rather than waiting for information from the applicant, leaseholders and residents will be able to access information directly.

HOW CAN THE SERVICE BE ACCESSED?

Leaseholders and residents can access the Service by inputting a ‘unique building code’ for their building.  All applicants have been sent information about the Service and their building code before its launch and they have been asked to share this with leaseholders and residents.

In addition, each private sector resident will be sent their building code directly via the post (20-24 Jan).

If you are a leaseholder and do not have this information, you should request it from the applicant (usually the building owner or managing agent).

HOW OFTEN WILL THE INFORMATION ON THE SERVICE BE UPDATED?

All application status updates will be published on the third week of each month.

DOES THE SERVICE INCLUDE INFORMATION ON BUILDINGS WITH ACM CLADDING?

No. The Service currently only includes buildings that are part of the Building Safety Fund (BSF) which covers unsafe non-ACM cladded buildings.

The government is however considering options for providing information on ACM cladded buildings and will review feedback on the new Service to inform decisions.

In the meantime, leaseholders and residents of buildings with ACM cladding that are being remediated should contact their responsible entity (usually the building owner or managing agent) for updates on ACM projects.

 

You can find out more information on the government website.