Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Edinburgh private rented properties and energy efficiency – dull but important stuff!

As some of you will no doubt be aware the Scottish Government is conducting a consultation regarding energy efficiency and condition standards in private rented housing.  Details of which can be found by clicking here

The Scottish Association of Landlords has submitted its ‘generic’ response to the consultation.  Details of this can be found by clicking here.  I have submitted my own as a landlord/letting agent.

We are all busy people but I would encourage you to have a look at what is proposed if you can find the time and possibly respond to the consultation – it is online and not too onerous.

Without boring you to death, the bottom line is that for a variety of reasons including Climate Change and Fuel Poverty, the Scottish Government has put in place a policy that requires all Private Rented Housing in Scotland to meet a certain standard of energy efficiency as measured by the Energy Performance Certificate.

This consultation is not about whether this will happen, but rather how and when.
In its most basic form, all rented properties will need to achieve at least an EPC level E initially and subsequently an EPC level D rating within a timeline that is to be set.

There is no need to panic, I will just repeat that..... Don't Panic.

Worst case, assuming the consultation is adopted wholesale, we have until April 2019 before properties let from that date on ‘new tenancies' need to achieve an EPC rating of E and by end of March 2022 for all properties. After which we have until the end of March 2025 for all properties to achieve an EPC rating level D.
Those of you who are ‘regular’ readers of my blog will notice that I have started mentioning the EPC rating of potential ‘buy to let’ properties where appropriate, this legislation is the reason why.

So having given some background and the bad news, is there any ‘good’ news?
On the plus side, the current proposal does include a cap on the expenditure of £5,000 per property (not massively great news I accept). Most properties, we hope, should be able to meet the requirements at a much lower level of expenditure than this.

Additionally, we have been told that there will be ‘some' funding available (no details as yet) in terms of grants, interest-free loans etc.

I would suggest is that any landlord who has concerns should start exploring alternatives fairly soon.

You might consider the following:
  • Identify if your property needs upgrading to meet the standard.
  • If it does, have a look at the full EPC report as they usually give some guidance on energy efficiency measures. Whilst I suggest that you take this guidance and the projected costs/savings with a truck load of salt, they are a start.
  • Explore all the possibilities for energy efficiency but ensure you get ‘expert’ guidance and written quotes for the different types and their efficiency. The range of insulation, heating, energy efficiency products that are available now is staggering and it’s only getting bigger as ‘energy efficiency’ becomes more and more of a focus.
  • Explore the funding situation to see what's available. Some companies that specialize in ‘energy efficiency' works will assist with this and/or will often have a good handle on what might be available. Additionally, some will throw in a post works EPC (which is required to evidence the improvement in the EPC rating) for free.
  • If you are going to get work done then allow for disruption, discuss it with your tenants and/or try and plan it for when there is a void period. Maybe combine it with other works you may have planned. 

To give you an idea of the kinds of ‘technologies’ that are available here are some examples, with links to some providers. This list is by no means exhaustive and you might try to check out the Energy Savings Trust Scotland website by clicking here.

I would emphasize that these aren't companies I have used and I am merely providing their details as examples. It is for you to decide whose services you employ bearing in mind that, which technologies or improvements will have the greatest impact on any given property, will depend on a variety of factors and so need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Heating – obviously installing gas central heating is a big improvement but also a sizeable cost and that’s assuming gas is available. However, even if that’s not an option, the range of modern electric heaters that are highly efficient and cost effective is massive. From simple panel heaters to gel, water or oil filled alternatives even modern versions of the venerable storage heaters. I have gel filled in one of my own properties and the tenants are very happy with them and they are a quantum leap up from the old ‘storage heaters’.
  • Insulation – there are numerous options depending on the construction of your property and how much you want to spend. As well as the usual loft and cavity wall insulation there are internal/external cladding systems, sprayable options etc. A couple of examples are: (i) ScotFoam – sprayable insulation and noise reduction, great for getting into spaces that aren’t easily accessible https://www.facebook.com/scotfoam/ and (ii) OVO Energy https://www.ovoenergy.com/guides/energy-guides/the-ultimate-guide-to-solid-wall-insulation.html.
  • Glazing: Ah yes that old standby, you may already have it, but how old is it? If you don’t have it then maybe now is the time, or a cheaper alternative might be secondary double glazing, if the property is listed or in a conservation area.
  • Energy Sources: Assuming your property isn’t a flat then maybe a miniature wind turbine, solar panels etc.
  • But let's not forget the basics that people have known about for years. Draft proofing, new cladding on hot water tanks/pipes, increased loft insulation, programmable thermostats to turn things on/off, modern controls on radiators, energy efficient lighting. Sometimes lots of little changes can add up to one larger one.

A few final points:
  • Firstly, there is plenty of time.
  • Bear in mind is that the areas of improvement with the highest EPC impact (in general terms) are insulation and heating.
  • Beware of false economies by which I mean by this is don’t do this on the ‘cheap’ and get caught out, don’t pay money to move from an EPC G to an E and then several years later have to get more work done to get to EPC D. Look at the costings and, if it's viable, carry out the work in one hit.
  • I can’t promise you the government won't ‘move the goal posts’ (there has been some talk of trying to get to EPC C, however, I think this is unrealistic given the age/type of some of the housing stock and that even some new builds struggle with this).
  • There is lots of information and guidance available out there so take your time and do your research.

Watch out for further information on this in future posts on The Edinburgh Property Blog.

#edinburgh #property #buytolet #realestate #ownermanagedbusiness #retirement #retirementplanning #energyefficiency #privaterentedsector #prs #privaterentedsector 


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