Landlords of the draughtiest homes in England and Wales will be required to upgrade their properties ahead of new rules requiring the installation of energy efficiency measures.
Since April 2018, new rules have been in place across England and Wales, setting out minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES).
These regulations made it unlawful for landlords to grant a new lease for properties that have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating below E, from 1 April 2018, unless the property is registered as an exemption.
While April 2018 heralded an initial change in the rules regarding energy efficiency standards, the bigger picture will see regulations that affect all rental properties, irrespective of the length of tenancy, in April 2020, when it will become unlawful to rent any property that has an existing or continuing tenancy that fails to meet the minimum required energy rating.
What’s more, the government is considering raising this target in another couple of years, at which point ‘D’ is expected to be the minimum EPC rating, so it is worth getting your properties up to scratch now to prevent even more work later.
To help landlords understand the rule changes, Fladgate, a City law firm, has shared some information below to allow them to understand what precautionary measures they should take and the consequences of not complying with MEES.
Do I benefit from an exemption?
If your property is caught by the EPC regime, you must comply with the MEES Regulations, unless you can rely on one of a few exemptions available to landlords, including but not limited to:
1. Exemption due to devaluation – a temporary exemption of 5 years will apply if a landlord can demonstrate that the installation of energy efficiency measures would reduce the market value of the property by more than 5%;
2. Exemption for new landlords – if a person becomes a landlord recently or suddenly in specified circumstances under the MEES Regulations, a temporary exemption of six months will apply; and/or
3. Third party consent – if a landlord cannot obtain necessary third party consents to improve the EPC rating of the property (including but not limited to lender consent, superior landlord consent and/or tenant consent), then a landlord may let a “sub-standard” property.
A landlord wishing to rely upon an exemption must register an exemption on the online Private Rented Sector Exemptions Register. Local authorities give and keep these fines and so are incentivised to enforce the legislation.
What if I don’t comply with the MEES Regulations?
If a landlord fails to comply with the MEES Regulations, there are financial penalties, which vary depending upon the length of the breach.
A landlord renting out a “non-compliant” property (less than three months in breach) may be fined up to either £5,000 or 10% of a rateable value up to a maximum of £50,000, whichever is greater.
A landlord renting out a “non-compliant” property (three months or more in breach) may be fined up to either £10,000 or 20% of the rateable value up to a maximum of £150,000, whichever is greater.
There is also a fine of up to £5,000 for providing false or misleading information, or failing to comply with a compliance notice.
What should I do?
The tightening of the MEES Regulations imposes further onerous obligations on landlords operating within the private rented sector.
If you have a property with an EPC rating of F or G then unless one of the exemptions referred to above applies, you should begin preparing now for the extension of the regulations to existing tenancies to take effect on 1st April 2020.
As the deadline fast approaches, landlords would be well advised to consider the following, in order to protect their assets:
1. Review your property or property portfolios to identify whether or not properties are compliant;
2. Consider the cost and extent of any works required;
3. Consider access to the properties (lease terms permitting) to carry out works required to bring the properties up to the minimum ‘E’ rating; and
4. Consider whether any exemptions may be relied upon.
Failure to do so will impact upon landlords’ abilities to market and deal with their properties.
There is speculation that MEES will rise again in 2022, making ‘C’ or ‘D’ the new minimum requirement. When considering any works to upgrade a property to comply with the MEES Regulations for April 2020, landlords should also bear in bind the potential future impact of the regulations.