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Rigsby Or Reasonable?

23 September 2016

Is the “refusal” of over half of UK landlords to allow or make energy efficiency improvements to their properties reasonable; or does it leave them looking like Rising Damp’s Rupert Rigsby?

We here at Eurocell are optimists. As alluded to in previous posts, we believe that most people – given the choice – would prefer to live more sustainably and behave more energy efficiently. Of course, that’s not always possible depending on personal and financial circumstances. While improvements like double-glazing and new boilers may be affordable for many, they may not be for all and, certainly, systems like full solar or PV installations or Ground Source Heat Pumps etc will likely be beyond the reach of most.

There are those that can afford the ‘luxury’ of specifying a totally green, off-grid existence – and that’s great – while others, New Age folk, adopt alternative lifestyles that eschew materialism and so avoid many of the impacts and costs of modern living. One interesting amalgamation of both is Ecotricity owner Dale Vince – the man that turned Forest Green Rovers into the only vegetarian football club in the country – who combines Branson-esque entrepreneurship with being, er, a bit of a hippy.

But those extremes, however, cannot and will not work for everyone. So the majority of us are mostly likely to be green when legislation or money or both demands. An example would be the installation of water meters – compulsory for new homes – that mean we can directly relate our consumption to our charges leading us to stick a brick in the toilet cistern or limit time in the shower. The banning of Incandescent light bulbs is another – forcing us to save energy and money (having forked out for the pricey LED equivalents) at the same time.

And it’s the same for businesses. No commercial enterprise adds cost to its operation deliberately – indeed, most are actively engaged in trying to reduce them as far as possible. To pursue the lighting theme, for example, the replacement of conventional fluorescent lighting battens with T5 lamps (bulbs, to you and me), which are up to 22% more efficient than traditional systems, can reduce electricity costs by hundreds of per cent. Yet a firm wouldn’t volunteer for expenditure unless it can see the payback for itself.

Which explains a recent survey which harks back to the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 discussed on this site in July. That legislation, you’ll no doubt remember, means that landlords have around 18 months to ensure that their properties achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) E rating as a minimum. After that, they cannot be legally rented.

Although the deadline for compliance is April 1st 2018, since April this year tenants in properties currently rated F and G have been able to request, and request to make, energy efficiency improvements – more insulation, new boilers etc – that would bring a dwelling up to an E and perhaps beyond. And landlords are not able to refuse either to do so or their consent without good reason.

However, tenants also need to show a way of funding improvements at no cost to the landlord, unless otherwise agreed. This is now difficult as it was originally expected that the late, unlamented Green Deal would provide much of the funding for this initiative.

And so to the survey mentioned above and surprise, surprise: while 70% of tenants have made requests for improvements, 58% say their landlords have refused to make or to agree to them.

So what are we to make of these landlords: are they guilty of ‘Rigsby-ism’ or – if you’re old enough to remember the term – Rachmanism; or simply behaving prudently in the commercial context, and being wary of adding to their costs unnecessarily?

As it is, post-April 1st 2018, options reduce regardless; yet there is a commercial case for making such improvements now as they can be beneficial to both tenants and landlords.

First, an energy efficient property is also a more appealing prospect for potential tenants. According to the National Association of Landlords (NLA), 35% of tenants consider energy efficiency an important factor when choosing properties. Second, properties with lower fuel bills and better ambient comfort result in tenants that tend to stay put for longer, thus reducing churn – and associated hassle and expense – and void periods. Finally, there is the undoubted in the capital value of a property post-improvements.

Yet it seems that the monies involved are not enough so, as we said right at the top, it now boils down to legislation and the impending 2018 implementation of Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015.

For those wanting to get ahead of the game, and seeking to improve properties in terms of their aesthetics, ‘live-ability’ and energy efficiency; you could do worse than talk to us. We offer a significant range of high-performing options when it comes to highly efficient windows, bi-folds, patio doors and entrance doors.

If you’d like to know how we can help you with the latest generation of energy efficient home improvement products, don’t hesitate to get in touch for support. Contact us here.

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