Housing standards exemptions that opened on Friday could allow landlords to leave some of the most vulnerable private renters with a £1bn energy bill over the next five years.
Regulations were initially passed under the coalition government, but the subsequent closure of energy efficiency funding schemes means landlords may be able to exempt themselves from having to improve the worst privately rented housing stock - potentially affecting up to 700,000 tenants.
From April 2018, regulations will come into force that prohibit the renting of properties with energy performance certificates below band E in England and Wales. Latest figures show this covers close to 300,000 rental properties, with the Government’s own figures estimating the annual energy bill savings for a household moving from band G to E would be £990/yr. For a band F household it would be £510/yr.
However a new loophole in the regulations risks allowing landlords to register for a 5 year exemption from the requirements if there are not adequate energy efficiency policies to fund the measures. With the closure of schemes such as the Green Deal, Landlord Energy Saving Allowance (LESA) and reductions in the only remaining scheme, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO),campaigners fear landlords will use the lack of funding as a reason not to invest in these properties. This could add up to £1bn to the energy bills of tenants already living in the worst housing stock over the 5 years the exemptions last. In contrast, research has shown that over 70% of properties could meet the standards at a cost of no more than £1,000
10:10 Climate Action is leading a coalition of partners are calling on the government to introduce a cost cap to ensure that necessary improvements are made. Their proposal would requiring landlords to cover costs up to £5000 - the figure the government previously agreed to consult on.
Emma Kemp, campaigner at 10:10 Climate Action said:
Already these measures didn’t go far enough - offering only minimum improvements to often vulnerable tenants in the worst housing stock - but with the cold homes loophole they could become toothless.
We have some of the leakiest homes in Europe - every winter we spend a fortune on energy that simply flies through our doors, windows and floors. Rather than letting landlords off the hook, the government should be backing tenants by closing the loophole and capping the cost for landlords instead to ensure fairness to all concerned.
Getting a grip on energy bills was a hot topic of the election, and the government says it wants to end fuel poverty by 2030. This loophole makes both harder. What better way to cut bills and fight climate change than to ensure all tenants live in warm, energy efficient homes?
For further information and requests for interviews: Daniel Jones, press and profile officer, email@example.com, 02073886688
Notes to editors:
10:10 brings people together to take practical action on climate change http://1010uk.org/.
The government's estimates for bill savings can be found here
According to the latest English Housing Survey figures (tab AT2.7) there are 297,640 which fall into EPC bands F and G. In band F there are 212,594 and band G there are 85,046. There are 14,000 properties below band E in Wales.
The overall calculation of £1bn top end figure is found by multiplying the government's estimated savings for households in bands F and G with the number of properties in their respective bands. This is then multiplied by the full five years of the potential exemptions. Full figure - £1,017,374,400
700,000 figure = average inhabitants (2.3 people in the British Housing Survey) multiplied by 300,000 properties.
The 70% / £1000 improvement figure comes from the Parity Project report.
There are 850,00 fuel poor households in the private rental sector in England across all bands according to data from Future Climate and National Energy Action, 2016.