Special Guest Blog
Beth Wilson, Director of Turner Scott Lettings in Kendal, says that with bills at an all-time high, landlords should look after their tenants by making homes as energy efficient as possible
Like many areas in the UK, there’s a shortage of private rental properties in the North West, while tenants are staying put for longer. Although this means less pressure for landlords to find new tenants or cope with void periods, the challenge is to ensure they hang on to good tenants, who are increasingly demanding warm, energy efficient homes. In the continued cost-of-living crisis, it’s in landlords’ interests to look after these tenants, particularly those struggling to pay their energy bills, as this can have a knock-on effect on rental payments.
While many of our landlords were relieved when the Prime Minister announced a U-turn on Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards earlier this year, we’re urging them not to simply forget about the issue. Although they won’t legally have to get their properties up to a minimum EPC band C by 2028 or face a fine if rental properties aren’t properly insulated, their tenants could face even higher energy bills if their homes don’t come up to scratch.
We recognise that residential landlords are feeling the pinch, with rising mortgage rates and other costs, a tough tax regime and mounting legislation, as well as the Renters Reform Bill due to kick in next year. As a result, they can be reluctant to make improvements due to concerns about cost. This is especially true of those who aren’t professional landlords or perhaps inherited their property while those with older, terraced houses with solid walls could well face particularly pricey upgrade costs.
However, as an agency, we’re proactively encouraging our landlords to think beyond the potential payback of retrofit work and to invest in their properties – after all, a future government could bring back those scrapped EPC deadlines. Turner Scott keeps landlords up to date with their obligations and ensures our managed properties are kept in good condition, but we hope they’ll also consider going a bit further to support tenants by offering energy saving advice and at least installing some simple energy efficiency upgrades.
Making sure rental properties have an efficient boiler that’s been serviced regularly along with functioning radiators, that are bled yearly and fitted with thermostat controls, is a good start, while it’s also worth adding reflective panels behind radiators to prevent heat lost through external walls. Thicker curtains, carpets and rugs can help reduce heat loss from windows and floors, along with sealing up draughty windows and doors. Getting a smart meter is a no-brainer for tenants and should mean more accurate bills – and budgeting – while removing the costs of meter readings. And if landlords want to do more, perhaps by fitting a heat pump or solar panels, there are grants available such as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.
Tenant education is important too. Last winter we found that some were reluctant to put the heating on, which exacerbated condensation issues in the house, causing damp and mould. Others were heating rooms but neglecting to have any ventilation, sometimes drying clothes on radiators, which also causes damp and mould – at a cost to landlords.
Energy efficiency is definitely front of tenants’ mind these days – particularly as so many more people work from home – and it’s not uncommon for them to check out a property’s EPC rating before making a decision to move in. Some are not afraid to request home improvements themselves, such as more efficient doors and windows. If that wasn’t enough to convince them, it’s also more likely that having an energy efficient property will add to its value, allowing landlords to rent it out at a higher price, which will also have an impact on the price when they decide to sell.