The energy efficiency level for landlords has been reduced by the government
As the government succumbed to pressure from landlords to lower the cap to upgrade Britain’s homes with worst energy efficiency, tenants’ woes will continue. Tenants will lose out to landlords which will leave thousands of lesser number of tenants getting the benefits. Earlier, there were plans to make landlords improve the F and G rated homes and boost energy efficiency from April under new regulations aimed at protecting vulnerable tenants and cut carbon emissions. Now, the government has reduced the cap from £5,000 to £2,500, which is half of what was originally planned for buy-to-let landlords. This means the total energy bill savings will be £337m less than planned earlier.
According to the government’s own estimates, this reduction in cap will benefit only 139,200 households in England and Wales by April 2020. The figure is 121,000 households less than that if the original cap had been there. According to campaigners and industry groups, the move has left ministers’ ambitions of tackling fuel poverty in tatters. Richard Twinn, policy adviser at the UK Green Building Council said that this will leave a gaping hole in the government’s plans to meet its own fuel poverty targets. The Association for Conservation of Energy said the government has “missed a big opportunity” to improve the efficiency of thousands of homes.
But officials defended the move by the government and said that the lower cap is necessary to protect owners by ensuring “that landlords of F and G rated private rented properties are not faced with an excessive cost burden”.
The government further said that the changes were necessary because landlords’ access to finance for energy-saving measures has become harder since the policy was first proposed. One green energy charity accused Theresa May of putting landlords’ interests ahead of tenants. Max Wakefield, a campaigner at 10:10 Climate Action, said that the prime minister claims to be prioritising controlling domestic energy costs, but in reality policy is being designed to suit landlords. He added that hundreds of thousands of renters will now be left wondering when, if ever, they can expect to live in a decent home.
Even the National Landlords Association was not happy with the reduction in cap and called the proposal a “complete farce”. It said there was a risk landlords who still cannot afford the upgrades will leave properties empty and unimproved. Richard Lambert, the group’s chief executive said that the government clearly thinks that landlords have cash to spare, just when its own changes to landlord taxation will soon be increasing the cost of providing homes to rent.
There are around 267,000 private rental homes in England and 13,000 in Wales which come under F and G, the worst energy bands.
Fuel poverty group National Energy Action said that 122,000 of those tenants in England were suffering the worst extremes of fuel poverty. Such tenants are paying over £1,000 more for electricity and gas than households not living in poverty.
Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat MP and the former energy minister who created the regulations, said the change undermined commitments made in the government’s recent climate change master plan.
The Clean Growth Strategy said it was taking fuel poverty and energy efficiency seriously. This looks like that was spin and not real.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that its proposed changes send a clear signal to landlords that they need to improve the energy efficiency of homes they’re renting out.
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