The environment is, understandably, a high priority for many people these days. With new regulations on the horizon and shifting attitudes towards sustainability and the UK’s net zero targets, now is the time to evaluate your properties and make changes to become a greener landlord.
Adopting an environment-first mindset will require landlords to make strategic changes and alterations to the properties in their portfolio, whether investing in smart solar panels or getting more out of their boiler systems.
As a landlord, while some previously looming deadlines may be extended, you have a responsibility to your tenants and community to operate your rental properties in an eco-friendly manner.
This article outlines everything you need to know as a UK landlord about environmental protections, regulations, and best practices when managing your rental units.
Meeting EPC Minimum Requirements
One of the biggest forthcoming changes for landlords in the UK is the minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating requirement.
It was previously announced that by 2025, all new rental properties must have an EPC rating of C or above, and that this requirement will extend to existing properties by 2028. However, these new energy efficiency rules have been scrapped following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent address.
This did little to quash frustrations among those landlords who had already made preparations to meet the minimum EPC rating of C on their properties. However, despite this recent government-enforced rule change, landlords should still check the EPC ratings on all their properties and make upgrades as needed to meet these new standards. It’s believed that Labour, should they emerge victorious in the next General Election, will reinforce these tighter deadlines.
Landlords should conduct the following assessments on their rental properties to improve EPC ratings:
- Installing insulation in walls, floors, lofts, and roofs
- Upgrading to double or triple-glazed windows
- Replacing old boilers and heating systems with more energy-efficient models, such as ground- or air-source heat pumps
- Switching to LED lighting throughout properties
- Installing renewable energy sources like solar panels and batteries
Making time and keeping on top of maintenance can be supported by time-saving property management software, helping to manage tasks and worksheets to assign jobs to tradespeople. Making improvements will make your properties more attractive to renters who prioritise sustainability. It also future-proofs your rentals for the upcoming EPC regulations, whenever they take shape.
Using Eco-Friendly Materials in Renovations
Many landlords refresh or renovate their properties between tenancies. Sometimes this will involve painting and decorating while others may want to invest in a full extension or refurbishment. When doing renovations or restorations, be sure to use eco-friendly and sustainable materials as much as possible.
- Paints and finishes – Choose low-VOC or no-VOC options made with plant-based ingredients. Avoid finishes that contain solvents, toxins, or formaldehyde.
- Flooring – Opt for carpets made from natural fibres and pads made from recycled materials. For hard surfaces, pick renewable options like bamboo, cork, or natural linoleum over vinyl and laminate.
- Cabinets and furniture – Search for products made with reinforced and recycled wood or biodegradable timber for durability. Avoid particleboard and cabinets coated in laminates.
- Insulation – Use fibreglass, reflective or cellulose insulation which contains recycled materials. Avoid foam insulation made with toxic chemicals.
- Plasterboard – Hang acoustic or sound-resistant plasterboard made from recycled paper materials with good fire ratings and heat retention performance.
Choosing sustainable construction materials minimises your rental property’s carbon footprint and promotes better indoor air quality for tenants. When structural construction is underway, use eco-friendly, renewable and reliable concrete barriers, bricks or steel for optimum safety and energy conservation.
Encouraging Tenants to Conserve Resources
As the property owner, it’s largely up to you to manage the sustainability features within each rental. However, tenants play a big role in how resources like water and electricity are consumed day-to-day.
Here are some tips for encouraging conservation among your renters:
- Provide educational resources on energy-saving tips and proper recycling practices.
- Consider installing low-flow faucets and showerheads to reduce water usage.
- Offer incentives for tenants who reduce utility usage year-over-year.
- Provide green cleaning products for tenants to use instead of harsh chemical cleaners.
- Set up compost bins for food waste and recycling bins to make separating household rubbish easy.
- Use smart thermostats that tenants can adjust but that self-regulate to prevent overheating or overcooling.
The more you can engage tenants in sustainability best practices, the more impact your properties will have overall.
Embracing Renewable Energy Sources
Switching to renewable energy sources is one of the most meaningful steps a landlord can take towards environmental protection. Solar, geothermal, and wind power generate electricity without emitting excessive greenhouse gases.
For rental properties, some of the most feasible options include:
- Solar panels – Install roof panels to convert sunlight into electricity. Incentivize tenants to use larger appliances like washing machines or tumble dryers during sunnier parts of the day to utilise solar energy.
- Solar water heaters – Use the sun’s radiation to heat water for plumbing fixtures and appliances. This reduces reliance on gas or electric water heaters.
- Smart thermostats – Programmable and adjustable smart thermostats better regulate temperatures and reduce heating/cooling usage compared to manual, on/off options.
- Energy efficient appliances – When replacing appliances like fridge-freezers, ovens, washing machines, and dishwashers, choose ENERGY STAR models which use a fraction of the electricity of conventional models.
Transitioning to renewable energy options will make your units more sustainable and can help attract tenants looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Staying Up-To-Date on Green Regulations and Incentives
As sustainability gains traction, new regulations, requirements, and incentives are emerging rapidly.
Stay clued into government resources and websites for new rules, regulations or legislation concerning your role as a landlord. You can take advantage of plenty of green energy tax incentives, grants and rebates like the ECO+ scheme and the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS).
When consulting with contractors and property managers, consider what eco-friendly products and solutions they can offer. Liaise with your local community or industry groups that can give you more insights and information on green housing and preserving energy.
Staying in the know ensures you continue operating your rentals in ethical, eco-friendly ways without missing out on savings from new incentives.
Going Above and Beyond for Eco-Friendliness
For landlords who want to go above and beyond basic environmental protections, there are a few additional steps you can take:
- Consider BREEAM certification for new construction or major renovations to verify sustainability.
- Install greywater recycling systems to reuse water from appliances and fixtures for irrigation and flushing.
- Incorporate native landscaping that is drought-resistant and kinder to local ecosystems.
- Install electric vehicle charging stations to serve tenants with EVs.
- Participate in community clean-up drives and set a green example for other landlords.
These types of extra measures demonstrate to your tenants, stakeholders, and community your commitment to environmental stewardship.
Tenants are increasingly weighing sustainability as a priority when choosing a rental. They also expect landlords to manage properties responsibly.
By taking the steps outlined in this guide, you can position your units to comply with environmental protections, satisfy eco-minded renters, and do your part for the planet – all while managing your properties more efficiently.