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Landlords need clarity from the government about eco-upgrades and fast – Whittaker

by: David Whittaker, CEO of Keystone Property Finance
  • 29/04/2022
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Landlords need clarity from the government about eco-upgrades and fast – Whittaker
The UK has the oldest housing stock in Europe – and most likely the world, according to property research group Building Research Establishment (BRE).

While that fact may delight architecture nuts and pub quiz fanatics, it provides a major headache for a government striving for net zero by 2050.

You see, the UK’s 29 million homes account for 15 per cent of our country’s total emissions, more than the agriculture and waste management industries combined.

It is easy to understand why when, according to the BRE, more than half of the nation’s homes were built before 1965, a third before 1945 and, astonishingly, a fifth before 1919.

With that in mind, I think the government is right to focus on decarbonising the UK’s housing stock as part of its net zero plans.

Its 244-page Heat and Building Strategy, published in October, provides what, on the surface, is a comprehensive strategy for retrofitting UK homes.

However, like so often with this administration, one gets the feeling that its actions do not always match the rhetoric.

To date, the government has pledged just £3.9bn in direct financial support for homeowners and landlords to help with the cost of upgrading their properties.

That is a drop in the ocean when you consider that Savills estimates it will cost in excess of £330bn to raise every house in the country to an EPC rating of at least C.

The lack of government funding is both concerning and frustrating, but it is not the thing that irks me most about this administration’s approach so far.

It is the lack of clarity and communication.


Landlords need ‘definite deadline and clarity’ on EPC requirements

You may have seen a bill currently working its way through parliament that will force landlords to upgrade their properties to a C by 2025 for new tenancies and 2028 for existing ones.

The Minimum Energy Performance of Buildings (No.2) Bill, as it is called, had its first reading in July, but things have come to a standstill since then.

The bill’s second reading has been deferred from the 18 March to early May and after that there are 10 further steps in the legislative process until the bill receives Royal Assent and becomes law.

That will take some time, and we must also assume that the Commons and Lords will propose amendments, which will slow the bill down further.

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but as things stand, landlords have potentially less than three years to find the cash to pay for these improvements.

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I fully support the need to make our housing stock more efficient and I accept that will involve some additional costs for landlords.

I suspect also that many landlords have come to terms with the fact they must make these improvements.

But in order to budget and plan for these improvements, they need a definite deadline and clarity on the final requirements in order to comply. Given how little progress the bill has made, I worry it will be some time before landlords receive that.

Therefore, frankly, MPs need to pull up their socks and provide landlords with the clarity they need and deserve.

If that clarity doesn’t come soon, the consequences could be disastrous. After all, how easy will it to find contractors to carry out those improvements at short notice when every landlord in the country is chasing their services?

Perhaps the Westminster bubble has also forgotten that we have lurched from a pandemic into the worst cost of living crisis in 30 years.

Money is tight for a lot of people and therefore many landlords will need all of the advanced warning they can get if they are to find the sort of money it will take to comply.

The Prime Minister said last year that we could “build back greener without so much as a hair shirt in sight”.

Well, Mr Johnson, I’m not sure the nation’s landlords would agree with you.

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