Local authorities are not doing enough to enforce minimum energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector (PRS) and tenants are not fully benefiting as a result, according to a report published today by the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) and CAG Consultants.
The finding is published in The Warm Arm of the Law report, an Ebico Trust funded research project which looked at the extent to which the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) and Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) are being proactively implemented and enforced by local authorities across England and Wales. HHSRS and MEES gives local authorities the legislative power to improve energy efficiency in the PRS.
Compared to other tenures, the PRS in England has the largest proportion of energy inefficient F and G rated properties, and 45.7% of PRS households living in such properties are in fuel poverty.
As the PRS continues to grow, tackling the energy efficiency of these properties will become increasingly important. However, achieving this in the PRS has been historically challenging since landlords have little incentive to invest in the efficiency of their properties given that it is their tenants who pay the energy bills.
There is great potential for both HHSRS and MEES to be more effectively implemented and doing so will not only improve the lives of tenants living in some of the worst properties in the country, but will also offer significant economic and wider societal benefits to the UK, including reducing the burden on the NHS and reducing carbon emissions.
The research has identified a number of recommendations around improving the implementation and enforcement of HHSRS and MEES, for government (national, regional and local), landlords and their representatives, tenant advice services and the energy efficiency sector. Priority recommendations include:
- National government needs to ensure that local government is adequately resourced to proactively implement both MEES and HHSRS and could offer guidance and advice on how these services can be implemented as cost effectively as possible.
- Local government needs to develop a joined-up approach to implementing HHSRS and MEES. National government could assist by issuing guidance and examples of how best to do this.
- National government should work with the energy efficiency sector to build the evidence base around the potential benefits to landlords of having highly efficient properties, including reduced rent arrears, reduced void periods and increased rental and asset value.
- National Government should continue to restate the long-term trajectory of the MEES regulations to help landlords understand their long-term requirements and to support the delivery of whole house retrofit approaches, thus minimising disruption for tenants and avoiding multiple interventions by landlords.
The outputs from the research project include a policy report and a toolkit. The policy report, aimed at policy makers, industry and wider stakeholders, highlights the opportunities to increase energy efficiency and reduce fuel poverty in the PRS, detailing current practice, where there are barriers and what is needed to overcome these, while the toolkit provides practical advice for local authorities on how to ensure they are realising the full potential of the energy efficiency legislation already in place.
If you’d like any further information on the project, please contact CAG partner Emma Jones – firstname.lastname@example.org