The government has announced plans which it says will improve the energy efficiency of the private rented sector. The forthcoming Energy Bill will mean that, from 2015, any tenant asking for reasonable energy efficiency improvements will have to receive them. Local authorities will also be able to insist that landlords improve the worst performing homes.
Chris Huhne, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, is announcing details of the "New Green Deal" today, which will mean that homeowners and landlords will be able to take out "pay as you save" loans of up to £10,000 to pay for double glazing, solar panels or other energy efficiency measures and will be paid pack over time through savings on fuel bills.
Landlords have, of course, traditionally had less incentive to make these improvements as they're not normally the ones paying the heating bills: The Telegraph reports that about 670,000 homes, more than a fifth of the total 3.2 million in the private rented sector, are rated G or F, the worst energy efficiency rating (these figures are based on the 2008 English House Condition survey, the most recent year for which figures are available). In the first two years of the carbon emissions reduction target scheme, only 1.9% of loft insulation installations were in the private rented sector.
The government has insisted that there will be no upfront or negative cost to landlords, though local authorities will have the power to compel landlords to make improvements or to insist on doing the work themselves, and also to levy a fine of up to £5,000.
It's not yet apparent just how this will not involve landlords in extra costs, as Green Deal financing is paid for through energy bill savings. If the person who's paying for the loft insulation isn't the person who's paying the heating bill, are we looking at increasing rents to cover the difference? Let's hope Mr Huhne's announcement later today makes this clear.