UK private renters could save billions if energy efficiency minimum is raised

Bill payers stand to collectively save billions if minimum standard raised to a C rating, research suggests

Raising the minimum standard of energy efficiency to a C rating for privately rented homes would save bill payers about £570 a year, research has found.

This would amount to annual savings totalling £1.75bn across the UK, according to the thinktank E3G in a report called Cutting Energy Bills and Raising Standards for Private Renters.

The government has been accused of dragging its feet on proposals that would require landlords to improve properties to at least a C rating under the energy performance certificate (EPC) scheme.

Two-third of rented properties are below that proposed minimum, leaving millions of people living in places that do not meet the legal definition of a “decent” home. One in four people renting live in fuel poverty.

Dan Wilson Craw, the deputy director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said: “By improving insulation and heating in private rented homes, landlords allow their tenants to heat their homes at less cost, which not only improves comfort levels, but reduces damp and mould, and the health problems they cause. The government has to go further, not just for renters but for the sake of the planet, and the country’s energy security.”

At present, landlords can let out homes that merit only an E rating, making them draughty and expensive to heat. But as tenants usually pay the heating bills, and with a shortage of available rental properties, landlords have little incentive to improve their lets with insulation, draught-proofing, double glazing and more efficient heating systems.

Ministers began a consultation on raising the minimum requirement for privately rented homes in 2020, with a view to forcing landlords to meet the EPC C standard from 2025 for new tenancies, and from 2028 for existing tenancies.

But these proposals have not yet been turned into legislation.

Colm Britchfield, a policy adviser at E3G, said: “The poor state of many rented homes is a growing national scandal. Tenants are facing sky-high bills, in part because so much energy is wasted in inefficient homes. The government has an oven-ready set of regulations to fix this. Now they need to put them into law.”

However, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) said that even if the government took action now, it would be too late to introduce tougher requirements from 2025. The NRLA claimed the proposals were now in effect “dead in the water”.

Chris Norris, the group’s policy director, said: “The NRLA wants to see rental properties as energy efficient as possible. This will only be achieved on the basis of workable and realistic ambitions and policy from government.

“It is now two years since the government closed its consultation on energy efficiency standards in rented housing. Given the lack of any response to this it is unrealistic to think that in two years’ time every new tenancy agreement will be in a rental property with an energy performance rating of at least a C. When ministers finally respond to the consultation, they need a realistic set of targets.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Thanks to government support, the number of homes with an energy efficiency rating of C or above has gone from 13% in 2010 to 46% and rising. We are investing over £6.6bn to help decarbonise homes and buildings, and to ensure all homes meet EPC band C by 2035.

“The Energy Company Obligation runs from 2022 to 2026 and will help hundreds of thousands of families with energy-saving measures such as insulation, with average energy bill savings of around £300 a year. Installations are now increasing, and we have announced a further £1bn extension of the scheme to start in spring 2023.”

In his review of the government’s progress towards the UK meeting its legally binding target of net zero emissions by 2050, the former Tory minister Chris Skidmore warned about a failure to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock. About 14% of the UK’s carbon emissions are associated with residential heating.


Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Evictions cost private renters in England £70m a year
Generation Rent says majority believe landlords should foot bill for making tenants move

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

10, Oct, 2019 @2:31 PM

Article image
Are some landlords bending energy efficiency rules?
Renting out properties with bad insulation and heating has been prohibited since April

Rupert Jones

23, Jun, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
I've seen the future and it's Norwich: the energy-saving, social housing revolution
The 100 homes on Goldsmith Street aren’t just smart and modern. They may be the most energy-efficient houses ever built in the UK. Could this be the start of proper social housing?

Oliver Wainwright

16, Jul, 2019 @4:30 PM

Article image
England: 1.75m private renters believe they will never buy house
Number of households not expecting to buy has grown by 50% under Tories, says Labour

Pippa Crerar Deputy political editor

28, May, 2018 @2:08 PM

Article image
Tenancy overhaul in Scotland hailed as 'new dawn' for private renters
Reforms backed by campaigners give tenants longer notice periods, indefinite security of tenure and limit rent rises

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

01, Dec, 2017 @12:05 PM

Article image
Energy bill: landlords could be forced to refurbish energy-inefficient homes
Proposed amendment would make landlords responsible for 'greening' properties or be prevented from renting them out

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent

15, Jun, 2011 @10:12 AM

Article image
Actively cutting energy bills in Oldham – welcome to the 'Passivhauses'

A Passivhaus looks like any other home, but it's not, thanks to a box of tricks in the loft that's helping residents' health and wealth

John Vidal, environment editor

01, Nov, 2013 @8:00 PM

Article image
'Green deal' to bring energy efficiency to 14m homes

Programme could be significant step towards meeting carbon emissions targets, and help those in fuel poverty

Damian Carrington

23, Nov, 2011 @10:35 AM

Article image
Labour targets renters with pledge of 100,000 council houses a year
Plan to borrow £75bn to fund affordable homes may appeal to those in private rental sector

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

20, Nov, 2019 @10:30 PM

Article image
How will Sadiq Khan help London's private renters?
The capital’s new mayor is starting to flesh out some of his manifesto pledges in a key area of housing policy

Dave Hill

02, Jun, 2016 @5:13 PM