New rules will prevent private landlords letting out the coldest and draughtiest homes, which cost hundreds of extra pounds to heat, the Government has announced today.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) says that from April 2018, landlords in England and Wales will be legally required to raise the energy efficiency of rental properties to at least "Band E" in energy efficiency standards.
Currently, the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ranks a property's efficiency from A, the most well-insulated and energy-saving homes, to G for the worst (see MoneySavingExpert.com's Housing and energy grants guide to find free cash to improve your home's efficiency).
Poor families living in the least energy efficient privately-rented properties need to spend around £1,000 more than the average household on keeping their homes warm. But DECC says that by bringing the coldest, draughtiest homes up to band E could save around 1 million tenants an estimated £880/year on their heating bills.
However tenants won't have to wait till 2018 to get the energy efficiency measures installed. From April 2016, tenants will have the right to request consent from their landlord for improvements to make the homes more energy-efficient and a landlord cannot "unreasonably refuse".
Landlords will be able to access financial support through schemes such as the Green Deal and the Energy Company Obligations for measures such as new boilers and insulation, and will only have to carry out cost-effective improvements.
DECC confirmed that the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund will re-open again within the next two months and that both tenants and landlords can apply (see MoneySavingExpert.com's Green Deal mythbuster guide for more information on this and how to save on your energy bills).
Law branded 'too weak'
However energy and environment charity, Friends of the Earth (FoE), says the law to ban cold rented homes is "too weak". Sophie Neuberg, energy campaigner at FoE says that along with the Association for the Conservation of Energy, it is calling for the regulations to be tightened to a minimum standard of EPC C by 2025.
Neuberg says: "New rules aimed at ensuring that private rented homes are properly insulated are long overdue – but unfortunately these changes don't go far enough.
"The new regulations only ban the most dangerously cold homes, and are riddled with loopholes which unscrupulous landlords can take advantage of.
"Regulations requiring private rented homes to be insulated to a far higher standard are vital to prevent cash-strapped tenants shivering in heat-leaking homes, and to help reduce the nation's contribution to global climate change."
A DECC spokesperson says: The energy efficiency of many properties will be improved under the regulations. Nearly one in ten properties fall below an E EPC rating in the domestic sector and the regulations will improve the very worst privately rented properties EPC rated F or G that are linked to excess cold health hazards and needlessly waste heat and energy, at a cost to their occupants.
"We will review the operation and effect of the regulations at no less than five year intervals and the first review will be carried out in 2020. Prior to this we will build the evidence base so we are able to effectively calibrate any future changes to the minimum standard that may be necessary."
Additional reporting by the Press Association.