Landlords of private rentals have certain energy performance certificate (EPC) obligations that they must adhere to. All private landlords must provide potential or existing tenants with a valid energy performance certificate. The property itself must have a minimal rating of E or higher unless it is subject to certain exemptions.
Energy performance certificates last for 10 years, so what happens if you want to make energy-saving home improvements to your private rented property in the meantime? After all, even private renters want to save money and have a cosy home!
In this article, we discuss tenant rights concerning energy-efficient home improvements. We’ll explain how a tenant can request to improve energy efficiency, as well as the statutory framework for doing so.
The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015
Since April 2016, the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 have provided ample renters rights. The regulations enable tenants of private rented properties to request consent from the landlord to conduct energy efficiency improvements.
Where a private renter feels that the property they live in can benefit from energy-saving improvements, such as loft and roof insulation, they can request to install these improvements. The tenant can request to make these upgrades so long as they are able to secure suitable funding to cover the costs of their request. This means that the landlord does not have to pay for the improvements unless they voluntarily wish to contribute towards the costs.
Funding may come from a variety of relevant sources, including:
- the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) (or successor supplier obligation scheme);
- Central Government or local authority funding, or third-party funding, such as a grant;
- a Green Deal Finance Plan (or future equivalent); or
- tenant funding where the tenant will pay the cost of the improvement themselves (either wholly or in combination with another source of funding).
The only onus on the landlord is that they cannot unreasonably refuse to give consent. The landlord can obtain further advice or evidence to make an informed decision. They can also offer a counter-proposal or impose reasonable conditions, such as that the work should be carried out to a professional standard.
Steps a tenant must take to make a request
In order to make a valid request, tenants must comply with the following steps:
1. Check the property is in the private rented sector
The tenancy can benefit from these regulations if it is an assured tenancy, a regulated tenancy, or an agricultural tenancy. Properties set to be demolished, temporary buildings with time use of 2 years or less, or social housing tenancies are excluded under the regulations.
2. Consider if there are reasons why the request cannot be made
Circumstances in which a request cannot be made include where the tenant has given notice to the landlord to end the tenancy, where a fixed term tenancy is set to end in three months or less, or where the landlord has started proceedings against the tenant for possession of the property.
3. Think about the energy efficiency improvements required and how to fund them
The tenant must then consider what energy efficiency improvements they feel are appropriate. From cavity wall insulation to room-in-roof insulation, there are a variety of treatments available. The tenant must conduct adequate research into the type of insulation required, along with any costs or schemes available.
4. Make a request to the landlord, including all supporting documentation
The tenant is then able to submit their request to the landlord. The request must be made in writing and must include a list of relevant energy efficiency measures the tenant wants to install as well as the work to be carried out to restore the property to its original condition, such as redecoration where the walls are damaged for installation. The tenant must also include information relating to Green Deal plans or other funding methods they have acquired.
It is important to note that further information is required in the written request. An exhaustive list of information required is available here.
Steps a landlord must make to consider a request
Upon receipt of a formal request for consent, the landlord must:
1. Assess if the property is in the private rented sector
The landlord must conduct their own due diligence and decide for themselves if the property falls within the regulations.
2. Consider the request for consent
The landlord must carefully consider the request and cannot unreasonably refuse. Reasons for refusal include:
- the improvement is not a relevant energy efficiency improvement;
- the tenant’s request is not valid;
- another tenant has submitted a tenant’s request in the past six months and the landlord complied with the Regulations in relation to that request; or
- if the tenant’s request was for wall insulation and this would negatively impact the property.
3. Respond to the request
Once the landlord has received the request for consent, they have one month to make a reply in writing. The landlord’s full response must state, for each energy efficiency improvement in the request, whether they consent to the tenant making the improvement and whether they consent to any Green Deal plans. This means that the landlord may consent to one of the improvements, but refuse consent to another measure. The landlord could also make a counter proposal or impose reasonable conditions.
There are certain protocols to follow if the landlord needs more time to collect evidence to form a decision or if there is a superior landlord. Detailed guidance on these circumstances is available here.
What to do if your landlord has not complied with the regulations
Where a tenant believes that an application has been unreasonably refused or that the landlord has not served a full response in line with the regulations, they can make an application to the First-Tier Tribunal to resolve the dispute.
The landlord does not have to inform the tenant that they have a right to make an appeal for the decision, however, when refusing a request it is good practice to inform the tenant about their right to apply to the Tribunal. Typical wording would be:
“You have a right of appeal against this decision to the General Regulatory Chamber (GRC) of the First-Tier Tribunal.
If you wish to appeal you should do so within 28 days of the date of this letter by writing to the General Regulatory Chamber, HM Courts and Tribunal Service, PO Box 9300, Leicester LE1 8DJ.
You can obtain an appeal form from that address or the tribunal website at https://www.gov.uk/courts-tribunals/first-tier-tribunal-property-chamber.”
Tenants should always seek professional, legal advice before submitting a claim to the Tribunal.
Common energy improvements made to rental properties
There are plenty of home improvements tenants can make to save energy and money.
Draught proofing is one of the most common measures installed by tenants that are covered by the regulations. Draught proofing is a straightforward method to insulate your home and retain heat in the property, ultimately helping to keep costs down and save you money. Draught proofing windows and doors could save you between £10 to £50 per year simply by sealing small gaps found around windows and doors.
In terms of insulation, room-in-roof insulation is a popular choice amongst private renters. Room-in-roof insulation fills the gaps left behind by a converted room, making the space warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. This means that the room becomes more usable to tenants, either as an extra bedroom or for office space.
Cavity wall and internal wall insulation is also a common choice, as up to 35% of all heat loss is lost through the walls. Insulating these spaces can therefore save tenants a lot of energy and money over time. However, it is important to be aware that a landlord can reasonably refuse a request for this type of measure. If the landlord obtains written information from a relevant expert, such as a Chartered Building Surveyor, or an independent installer that it is not an appropriate measure for the property because it may damage the fabric or structure of the property, then the landlord can refuse the request.
As a tenant, you have the right to request energy-saving improvements for their private rental, allowing you to create a cosy and efficient home.
In order to assess the best insulation methods for your private rented property, get in touch today! Our experienced technicians can find the ideal insulation solutions for you and we can provide you with a detailed report to send to your landlord.