Rural landlords feeling the draught

Now that the calendar has ticked over to 2016, the 1st April 2018 suddenly seems that much closer.

It is from that date that it will become illegal to let a residential property that has an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F or G. Those landlords with long term tenants cannot afford to be too relaxed as all let residential properties will need to meet the regulations by 1st April 2018. These requirements were introduced by the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations 2012.

These regulations are a particular burden for rural houses. Most farm and estate residential properties were built of slate and stone in the 19th or 18th centuries when energy performance was less of a concern. Draughty sash windows, rising damp, solid stone walls, uninsulated roofs and coal fired back boilers may have been the lap of luxury in 1818, but they won’t cut the mustard in 2018.

Many properties will have been continually upgraded and will meet the standard, but it is estimated that there are 430,000 properties that will require work, even though many will have already participated in energy efficiency schemes. If you own such a property, the first step is to avoid complacency and establish the EPC rating. The assessor should be able to provide some recommendations as to how to bring it up to standard. This, at least, will allow you 2-4 years to plan and fund the works.

A grey area has been Listed properties. Some have assumed that Listed properties are exempt from these regulations. This is not the case. Listed properties do require an EPC. They may be exempt from meeting the minimum requirement standard only if the required works would adversely affect the features for which they were Listed. This can only be determined in discussions with the local heritage officer and each case will be determined on its individual merits. The exemption should be gained in writing and retained by the landlord.

An additional element of the regulations is that, from 1st April this year, tenants will be able to request reasonable energy efficiency improvements. This will probably not be exercised much as the tenant would need to pay for the improvements, but it does not take a great deal of imagination to see the emphasis of the regulations changing.

By coincidence, a recent report partly blamed our obesity epidemic on overly hot homes – our ancestors burnt much more energy simply keeping warm. To me, this seemed a virtuous circle: lapse gym membership, reduce heating costs and lose weight! So I ran the idea past the wife. With the benefit of hindsight, this is not a course of action that I would recommend, unless of course you wish to utilise our excellent Family Law Team.

If you would like any further information or to discuss any rural related matter, please contact Tom Wills, head of the agriculture & estates department at Sintons.

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