Amid some very worrying changes for landlords, there have been three announcements which will help us.
In September 2020 the government launched a consultation:
“Improving the energy performance of privately rented homes
We’re seeking views on proposals around raising energy performance standards for the domestic private rented sector in England and Wales.
The government has committed to upgrade as many private rented sector homes as possible to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2030, where practical, cost-effective and affordable.”
In the core proposals:
1. Raising the energy performance standard to EPC Band C;
2. A phased trajectory for achieving the improvements for new tenancies only from 2025 and for all tenancies from 2028;
3. Increasing the maximum investment amount, resulting in an average per-property spend of £4,700 under a £10,000 cap;
The government have not published a response to this consultation yet but there is legislation going through parliament which potentially could be amended:
“2. Privately rented properties (1) The Secretary of State must amend the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented 15 Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/962) to require that, subject to subsection (2)—
(a) all new tenancies must have an energy efficiency performance of at least EPC Band C from 31 December 2025; and
(b) all existing tenancies must be at least EPC Band C from 31 December 20, 2028, where practical, cost-effective and affordable as defined under section 1(4).
(2) A landlord is exempt from the duty in subsection (1) to bring a property up 25 to EPC Band C if they meet the criteria for an affordability exemption, as may be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”
This, coming at a time when interest rates are rising and the full impact of the loss of tax relief on borrowing, has forced many landlords to consider selling up, but is there time to delay this?
According to a report in the Daily, Telegraph Government are about to publish the results of the consultation above and in that report, private landlords will be given an extension on properties with existing tenancies from 2025 to 2028 in line with properties which are new tenancies after the published deadline.
Energy Related Budget Statements
In the Spring Budget, the chancellor spoke a lot about Energy, mentioning plans for Nuclear power, renewable energy, sustainable development of carbon capture and storage and regeneration projects throughout the country. We are under pressure to meet our obligations to Net Zero by 2050 and the private rented sector controlling so many properties has a major part to play, hence the EPC targets above.
“What does ‘net zero’ mean?
Net zero means not adding to the number of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.
This involves reducing GHG emissions as much as possible and balancing out any that remain by removing an equivalent amount.
Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. CO2 is released when oil, gas and coal are burned in homes, factories and to power transport. Methane is produced through farming and landfill.
These gases cause global warming by trapping the sun’s energy.”
On 30th March the Energy Secretary, Grant Shapps, published:
Powering Up Britain
“Ambitious plans to scale up affordable, clean, homegrown power and build thriving green industries in Britain have been unveiled by the government today (Thursday 30 March) – boosting the country’s energy security and independence and reducing household bills for the long term and maintaining a world-leading position in achieving net zero.”
Government Plans for Net Zero
Before we begin to plan how we might improve our rented properties to reach a C EPC in the next 5 years we should take note of the Government’s plans and, where possible, make sure that we are not spending money on improvements which will become obsolete in the next decade. Here are what I believe to be the noteworthy points for landlords but with so much at stake, it’s important to read the document linked below and keep up with the fast-changing face of Energy efficiency.
- “Cutting household bills by expanding Government energy efficiency support to even more households – The Great British Insulation Scheme, a rebranded ECO+, will upgrade 300,000 of the country’s least energy efficient homes.
- Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels to heat our buildings – a new £30 million Heat Pump Investment Accelerator is designed to leverage £270 million private investment to boost manufacturing and supply of heat pumps in the UK. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which offers a £5,000 grant to anyone buying a heat pump, will be extended to 2028.
- Following our unprecedented cost of living support this Winter, which continues, this plan now sets out how we fix this problem in the long term to deliver wholesale UK electricity prices that rank amongst the cheapest in Europe, as we export our green growth expertise to the world.
Reducing demand by increasing household and business energy efficiency
- Reducing energy bills by increasing energy efficiency: Up to 80% of people across the country in council tax bands A-D will qualify for support to make their homes more energy-efficient under a new ECO+ scheme, to be called the “Great British Insulation Scheme”. This will mean around 300,000 more of the country’s least efficient homes could benefit from improvements saving households on average around £300-400 a year on energy bills, and forms part of a £1 billion energy efficiency programme running from Spring until March 2026 – contributing towards the government’s target to reduce energy demand by 15 per cent by 2030.
- Driving Household electricity bills down: Confirmation that the government will set out plans during 2023/24 to rebalance gas and electricity costs in household bills to make electricity bills cheaper and speeding up electrification for households and businesses.”
There was just one piece of good news for landlords in the budget:
The Chancellor said “the second measure concerns more than four million households on prepayment meters. They are often the poorest, but they currently pay more than comparable customers on direct debit. Ofgem has already agreed with suppliers to a temporary suspension to force installations of prepayment meters. But today I go further and confirm we will bring their charges in line with comparable direct debit charges.”
Not only is this good news for tenants on modest incomes but it’s also good news for landlords because a tenant under financial pressure may struggle to pay their rent or they may reduce the heat in the property encouraging the growth of dampness and mould which, as we all know, has many repercussions and costs. I have never been able to understand how people paying in advance are forced to pay more than those on credit it makes no sense, and this is very long overdue.
Help for Landlords With Anti-social Behaviour
There will not be many landlords who have had 100%, great tenants. Some of us have dealt with fairly minor issues of small amounts of damage and losses, intermittent rent arrears, and noisy parties … these things are annoying if the people involved are meant to know better, but it is when it becomes something much more serious that landlords often struggle to deal with it and also to find help to support their efforts.
I went through a very serious incident last year, in fact, it’s only just come to an end almost a year later. Long story short I took a tenant who ticked all the boxes and appeared as a charming and hard-working young man. He moved into a beautiful one-bedroomed house in March 2022. By May he had stopped paying his rent. I realised that I would need to serve a Section 8 notice in June when he didn’t pay his rent and there would be 8 weeks’ arrears.
I was totally unprepared for what happened next – in a nutshell. A neighbour finally decided to tell me that the tenant was terrorising them and that he had broken my front window, completely wrecked the back PVC door and was banging and shouting inside the house at all hours. By the time this tenant left he had taken a pipe bender and a hammer to the kitchen appliances, walls, windows and doors. The garden was full of rubbish, bottles, cans and clothes … Finally, in June, he set fire to the house.
Fortunately, I had The contact details for the tenant’s next of kin. I called his father who swore that his son hadn’t done anything like this before but that they weren’t on speaking terms so he couldn’t help. Help? He is your son! I was expected to deal with his son, and I was called many nasty names because I said that my only option was to evict him and take legal action against him. This was before the fire and I did offer to write off all my losses and damages and pay for him and his belongings to be moved to a new place, (the van he had driven at the start of the tenancy had disappeared), and not to pursue him for my losses, which at that point were several thousand. He refused my offer and later his father insinuated that I had set the fire to make the tenant move out. Unfortunately, the fire service appeared to have believed that story and I was left with a burnt and wrecked house and the fear of prosecution for something that I had not done. I cannot begin to describe the next few weeks. My mental health was pushed to the edge. After working closely with local councils, fire departments and police I was about to lose the reputation I had built over 50 years of being a caring and legally compliant landlord. I was devastated. Eventually, a neighbour came forward with video footage which showed that the tenant had in fact set fire to the house by putting something through the letterbox and finally I was able to sleep knowing that there was evidence that I had not done it.
The tenant had moved out a few days after the fire, not until he had caused more drama and upset more neighbours, and I was relieved and lucky that I didn’t have to take the long legal route to remove him because I was given no support from any of the services and I had no idea how to deal with a person with these problems. Neighbours thought that I should just “throw him out” and couldn’t understand that landlords cannot do that. They would not give me witness statements and I knew that I could not rely on them if I had tried to evict him for ASB. Ironically I have all my windows cleaned every month but for the first time in years, the window cleaner was ill and had missed the month when the damage was done which is why I only found out when a neighbour told me.
I am telling you this for context because we often hear about “the tenant from hell” and probably don’t really understand the stress involved in dealing with tenants like these. My case was extreme, but it can be stressful even for those landlords dealing with tenants who are, for example, drinking to excess or using recreational drugs. Then there are the issues with neighbours who don’t understand that we cannot “throw tenants out” without a legal process this puts us under further pressure because the neighbours believe we don’t care. After all, we don’t live there. These are things which we don’t sign up for when we become landlords, most of us have no training to deal with them nor inclination in most cases and, until it happens to you, you do not realise how little help and support is available to private landlords who are having to deal with these issues. Social landlords get support and have a totally different experience which is difficult to accept for the privately rented sector.
Against this background, you will understand why I, and many other landlords who feel like victims of this inept system, were really pleased when the government announced the following on 26th March:
Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan
Everyone has the right to live without fear of facing anti-social behaviour. The Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan sets out an ambitious new approach to working with local agencies to tackle the blight of anti-social behaviour facing communities across England and Wales.”
There is a quote in the document which sums up the feelings of landlords very well:
“And when you get anti-social behaviour, you tend to think, Right, I’m going to report it to the police, you ring the police, the police then tell you, It’s not our problem, you’ve got to contact the council. You ring the council and they turn round and say, Well it’s a police matter, nothing to do with us. So we’re left in between, thinking, Where do we turn to?… it does leave us with a feeling of being dumped to one side. – Research participant who experienced anti-social behaviour, Leicester”
Serious anti-social behaviour may happen in or around a privately rented property and may even be caused by a tenant but why is this any different from a person living anywhere else? Private landlords are not trained to deal with these issues, nor are we paid to. This acknowledgement from the government is very important for us. I know that if I had been listened to and supported the community around my property could have been protected even when it was too late for my house.
Another quote from the document makes the point very well – landlords can be victims of anti-social behaviour, but we can also be part of the solution –
“Data equals knowledge.
Good data about anti-social behaviour is required to take effective action and improve people’s lives. But the people who suffer anti-social behaviour need to give the authorities the evidence and the present system does not encourage them to do so. This plan changes that because we need their help to build a clear picture of where anti-social behaviour happens, how often and what type. Which anti-social behaviour worries victims most, and where do they most want the police and councils to intervene?”
It is a worrying thought that my ex-tenant is living somewhere now with new neighbours and may already have caused them to suffer as my neighbours did. The Fire Service will have no record of him starting the fire because they believed that I did it. One day I will pluck up the courage to go and speak to them and offer them access to the video evidence but not yet, I’m still struggling to move past what happened, and sadly I decided to sell my lovely house because I couldn’t get past the knot in my stomach when I walked through the front door even after it was restored to its former glory. I found a buyer immediately and that is one less home available to a private tenant which has been occupied by several happy tenants since 1998.
The second document published by the government that day is a guide on how to get help –
Antisocial behaviour: how to get help
Find out how to get support if you or someone you know is a victim of antisocial behaviour.”
This may be the end of a very serious and growing problem, but we all need to play our part and not stick our heads in the sand nor allow fear to prevent us from doing the right thing – I accept the irony of my saying that when I haven’t been able to face the Fire Officer yet!