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HOW ENERGY EFFICIENT IS YOUR BUY-TO-LET PROPERTY?

With a growing focus on climate change and a generation of tenants becoming increasingly ‘green’, maximising the energy efficiency of your rental property can prove hugely beneficial.

Not only are energy efficient homes becoming more attractive to tenants, but with the introduction of new legislation on the way, meeting the minimum energy standards shows your commitment as a landlord, and that you are serious about complying with the law.

So how can you ensure your rental property complies with the law?

What is an EPC?

EPC

Since 1 October 2008, all rented property in the UK must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

Valid for 10 years, an EPC gives a property its overall efficiency rating, from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and contains information about a property’s energy usage and recommendations about how to reduce energy waste.

Undertaken by an accredited energy assessor, a visual inspection is done to assess key areas such as loft insulation, the boiler, radiators, window glazing etc, and takes into account whether a property has underfloor heating or uses energy efficient light bulbs. A survey is then produced which shows the property’s current rating and its potential rating should you make improvements.

Your agent can arrange for an EPC to be carried out for you, however, if you’d like to arrange one yourself, you can find a certified assessor for England, Northern Ireland and Wales or Scotland.

The Law

The law varies across the UK but a good agent will be able to guide you through the EPC process, keeping you up-to-date on complex legislative changes. ARLA Propertymark Protected agents are not only held to a higher standard, but they’ll also be able to help ensure that your rental property is compliant and operating within the law.

England & Wales

On 1 April 2018, the law changed in England and Wales which means all landlords are legally required to ensure their rental properties reach a minimum EPC rating of E for all new tenancies, in order to meet the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES). From April 2020, this will be compulsory for all tenancies, new and existing.

A new digital service has been set up to help both landlords and tenants in England and Wales understand Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) and take action to improve EPC ratings. Just by answering a few simple questions, you'll receive tailored practical advice to help meet your legal obligations, carry out home improvements and find funding opportunities. There is also a landlord helpline for queries related to MEES Regulations and how to comply.

Scotland

Minimum efficiency standards in Scotland’s private rented sector will be phased in over the next few years, with any new tenancy from 1 April 2020 demanding the property to have an EPC of at least band E, with a view for this to be a compulsory requirement for all properties by March 2022.

And then from 1 April 2022, any new tenancy will require the property to have an EPC of at least band D, with this stretching to all properties by 31 March 2025.

Northern Ireland

Whilst having an EPC is compulsory under EU law, there currently is no minimum efficiency standard in place for rental properties in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Irish Government consulted on MEES legislation in early 2017, however, due to not having a functioning government, the law has not moved on.

Efficiency Investments

If your property doesn’t meet the minimum standards, here’s how to bring them in line with the law.

Insulation

Insulation (or a lack of) is the biggest cause of energy deficiency, with around a quarter of a home’s heat lost through the roof. Insulating your loft is a simple and effective way to reduce heat loss and if your attic space is easy to access and has no damp or condensation problems, it should be easy to insulate - in most cases, it’s possible to do it yourself. Whilst costs can vary depending on your property type, in most cases, the cost is usually offset by the annual energy bill saving.

Generally, houses built after 1990 have wall insulation to help keep in the heat, however, anything predating this may not have any at all. About a third of all heat lost in an uninsulated home escapes through the walls, but the type of padding required to insulate a home is dependent upon the type of walls your property has.

If your property was built after the 1920s, it is likely to have cavity walls and will require insulation to be injected into the cavity. The process requires a registered professional to install and should only take a couple of hours to complete. Pre-1920 properties commonly have solid walls and will need internal or external wall insulation, which is a substantially bigger job and can be costly.

Glazing

If you don’t have double glazing, you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make to annual energy bills. The average home loses around 10% of its heat through windows and doors, so good, energy efficient glazing is essential. Don’t forget, when it comes to choosing windows, keep an eye out for the ‘Energy Saving Trust recommended’ logo which is given to the most efficient glazing.

Check your boiler

Upgrading the current boiler or installing an efficient and cost-effective heating system is another way to save energy and help reduce your tenants’ monthly costs. Whilst these can be expensive initially, they can prove an important factor when it comes to making your property legal against its EPC certification.

Renewable energy

By installing renewables, like rooftop solar panels or solar water heating, your property’s energy consumption is likely to be low - which will not only help you but also your tenants. And whilst these might not be the cheapest energy upgrades and aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing, the impact can make quite the difference in reducing the cost of energy bills. 

Easy upgrades

lightbulb

But efficiency upgrades don’t always need to come at a major expense, there are also several easy and cheap ways to insulate your rental property, like investing in a rug, or fitting heavy curtains to keep the heat in. You can also install reflective panels or foil behind radiators to reflect heat back into the room and draft excluders are a great way to stop heat escaping through the gaps under doors.

Lighting accounts for around a fifth of the average household's electricity bill, so by replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient ones or LED bulbs, your tenants will use much less electricity whilst being kinder to the environment.

Investing in a hot water cylinder jacket – which typically cost around £15 – could save around £20 a year, and by covering pipes with the proper insulative slipping will keep hot water hotter for longer. Fitting a water-saving showerhead will also help your tenants cut back on the amount of energy and water they are using.

Advice for Your Tenant

Tenants can also have a huge impact on reducing a home’s carbon footprint. For example, turning down the temperature on a thermostat by just one degree can cut heating bills by up to 10%, saving around £85 a year.

If there’s a room in the house that isn’t being used, turn the radiators down and keep the door closed so as not to waste energy heating it. Don't turn the radiators off completely, however, or the room may become damp over time.

Drying washing indoors will not only cost more in monthly bills but is also one of the biggest causes of mould in properties. So, it’s important that tenants air damp washing in a well-ventilated room, preferably near an open window.

It’s never been easier to stay in control of our energy consumption, and smart home technology can help save your tenant time and money. By downloading a smart energy app, which most major energy suppliers now have, your tenant will be able to keep track of the energy they are using, helping them to manage their consumption and output.

Quick tips for your tenant to remember:

  • Put the heating on a timer so that it’s not on when it doesn’t need to be.
  • Don’t block radiators with furniture.
  • Keep the fridge temperature between three and five degrees.
  • Defrost the freezer regularly to remove the build-up of ice.
  • Only boil as much water as you need in your kettle.
  • Clean the fluff out of the tumble dryer filter every time you use it.
  • Keep showers to a minimum - this will not only save on water consumption but also electricity bills if it’s an electric shower.

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