The 2015 Energy Efficiency Regulations, passed in March 2015, set out minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) for England and Wales. These regulations make it unlawful for landlords to grant a new lease for properties that have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating below E, from 1 April 2018, unless the property is registered as an exemption.
Careful planning and preparation will be required to mitigate the potential impact, and it is important that buy-to-let landlords and investors take action now if they wish to avoid legal headaches in the near future.
Any landlord found to be letting a sub-standard property in direct breach of the new regulations would be at risk of prosecution, which must be enforced by local authorities with a civil penalty of up to £5,000 imposed for breaches.
The local authority must also serve a compliance notice upon the landlord, asking them to bring the property up to the required standard.
Some properties may only need a couple of inexpensive tweaks to bring them in line with the new regulatory requirements, while others may require substantial works, which come at a cost, according to Danielle Hughes from Kirwans law firm.
The legal expert explained: "Landlords have to balance this work against the risk of them being in breach of the legislation and facing a criminal conviction and penalty fine. As long as the rating is at a minimum of E, it is up to them which methods they chose to improve the property.
"Careful assessment of the options and setting an appropriate plan of action over the next 12 months is the best way to ensure that the properties are ready and fully compliant by April 2018. Planning now will also have the obvious benefits of spreading the cost and making sure that the relevant third party contractors are available to undertake any necessary work.
"Before scheduling a visit from a Domestic Energy Assessor, landlords should spend some time looking at the different methods of improving their propertyâ€™s energy efficiency rating and chose which is right for them."
To help you understand what exactly is required and what exemptions are in place, a copy of the regulations can be found here.
Additionally, check out these Top tips for improving your property's energy efficiency rating from Hughes:
Fit new loft insulation so that it measures at least 270mm in depth. Look into grants and funding opportunities to see if your property qualifies. Ensure that any cavity walls are also insulated.
If you're able to invest a little more, then consider replacing an old boiler with a new condensing one. As well as hugely increasing your EPC score, this could reduce running costs by hundreds of pounds each year, making the property much more attractive for prospective tenants. If you want to boost your EPC score even further, then why not look at introducing updated heating controls too, such as boiler programmers, room thermostats and individual Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs).
There are plenty of ways to improve lighting efficiency, but switching from halogen to more energy efficient lighting will have a big impact for relatively little cost. Introducing Low Energy Lighting (LELs), Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) or Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) can make a real difference.
Replacing single-glazed windows with double-glazed units will have the dual effect of sprucing up your property and giving its energy efficiency rating a boost.
Draft-proof doors and windows
Look around windows, doors, loft hatches and floorboards in order to identify draughty areas, then address the best way to prevent the draught, be it excluders, fillers, curtains etc. The Energy Savings Trust estimates that the materials for draught-proofing an entire property could cost between £85.00 - £275.00 if you want to do it yourself, while hiring a professional could cost considerably more.
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