If You Read One Article About Energy Efficiency in Scottish Rented Property Read This One!
As some of you will no doubt be aware the Scottish government have been conducting a consultation regarding energy efficiency and condition standards in private rented housing. Details of which can be found here; click on the link for details. https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/better-homes-division/energy-efficiency-programme/
The Scottish Association of Landlords have submitted their ‘generic’ response to the consultation which is available at this link, https://www.scottishlandlords.com/NewsPolicy/PolicyItem.aspx?ArticleId=554 and I have submitted my own as a landlord/letting agent.
We are all busy people but I would encourage you to have a look at what is proposed if you can find the time and possibly respond to the consultation; it is all-online and is not too onerous.
Without boring you to death the bottom line is that for a variety of reasons including Climate Change and Fuel Poverty the government have put in place a policy that requires all Private Rented Housing in Scotland to meet a certain standard of energy efficiency as measured by the Energy Performance Certificate.
This consultation is not about whether this will happen, but rather how and when.
In its most basic form, all rented properties will need to achieve at least an EPC level E subsequently D within a timeline that is to be set.
Next is that there is no need to panic, I will just repeat that….. Don't Panic. Worst case, assuming the consultation is adopted wholesale, we have until April 2019 before properties let from that date on ‘new tenancies' need to achieve EPC E and by end of March 2022 for all properties. After which untill the end of March 2025 for all properties to achieve EPC D.
Those of you who are ‘regular’ readers of my blog will notice that I have started mentioning the EPC rating of potential ‘buy to let’ properties where appropriate, this legislation is the reason why.
So having given some background and the bad news, is there any ‘good’?
On the plus side the current proposal does include a cap on the expenditure of £5,000 per property (not massively great news I accept). Most properties , we hope, should be able to meet the requirements at a much lower level of expenditure than this.
Additionally, we have been told that there will be ‘some' funding available (no details as yet), in terms of grants, interest-free loans etc.
I would suggest is that any landlord who has concerns should start exploring alternatives fairly soon. You might consider the following:
- Identify if your property needs upgrading to meet the standard.
- If it does, have a look at the full EPC report they usually give some guidance on energy efficiency measures, please take these and projected costs/savings with a truck load of salt, but it’s a start.
- Explore all the possibilities for energy efficiency, but ensure you get ‘expert’ guidance and written quotes for the different types and their efficiency. The range of insulation, heating, energy efficiency products that are available now is staggering and it’s only getting bigger as ‘energy efficiency’ becomes more and more of a focus.
- Explore the funding situation to see what's available. Some companies that specialize in ‘energy efficiency' works will assist with this and/or will often have a good handle on what might be available. Additionally, some will throw in a post works EPC.
- If you are going to get work done then allow for disruption, discuss it with your tenants and/or try and plan it for when there is a void period. Maybe combine it with other works you may have planned.
To give you an idea of the kinds of ‘technologies’ that are available here are some examples, with links to some providers. This list is by no means exhaustive and you might try to check out the Energy Savings Trust Scotland, http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland.
I would emphasize that these aren't companies I have used and I am merely providing their details as examples. It is for you to decide whose services you employ.
One thought to bear in mind is that the areas of improvement with the highest EPC impact (in general terms) are insulation and heating.
Which technologies or improvements will have the greatest impact on any given property will depend on a variety of factors and so need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Heating – Obviously installing GCH is a big improvement but also a sizeable cost and that’s assuming gas is available. However, even if that’s not an option the range of modern, electric heaters that are highly efficient and cost effective is massive. From simple panel heaters to gel, water or oil filled alternatives even modern versions of the venerable storage heaters. I have gel filled in one of my own properties. The tenant is very happy with them and they are a quantum leap up from the old ‘storage heaters’.
Insulation: There are numerous options depending on the construction of your property and how much you want to spend. As well as the usual loft and cavity wall insulation there are internal/external cladding systems, sprayable options etc. A couple of examples appear below.
ScotFoam – Sprayable insulation and noise reduction, great for getting into spaces that aren’t easily accessible. https://www.facebook.com/scotfoam/
Glazing: Ah yes that old standby, you may already have it, but how old is it? If you don’t have it then maybe now is the time, or a cheaper alternative might be secondary double glazing, if the property is listed or in a conservation area.
Energy Sources: Assuming your property isn’t a flat then maybe a miniature wind turbine, solar panels etc.
But let's not forget the basics that people have known about for years. Draft proofing, new cladding on hot water tanks/pipes, increased loft insulation, programmable thermostats to turn things on/off, modern controls on radiators, energy efficient lighting. Sometimes lots of little changes can add up to one larger one.
A couple of final points, firstly there is plenty of time,
Please no false economy, what I mean by this is don’t do this on the ‘cheap’ and get caught out, don’t pay money to move from an EPC G to an E and then several years later have to get more work done to get to EPC D. Look at the costing’s and if it's viable, carry out the work in one hit.
I can’t promise you the government won't ‘move the goal posts’ (there has been some talk of trying to get to EPC C, however, I think this is unrealistic given the age/type of some of the housing stock and that even some new builds struggle with this). I can state that getting it done in one hit should be cheaper in the long term and that with tenants paying more attention to EPC levels, and they are, it could help you get/retain tenants and maybe make the property more saleable.
There is lots of information and guidance available out there so take your time and do your research.