Tips for creating an eco-friendly rental property

By 8 min read • April 2, 2024
Light bulb, plant, miniature house, blue sky, greenery

Discover tips and advice for making your rental property more eco-friendly to boost its value, attract more tenants, and help fight climate change.

Landlords play a crucial role in fighting climate change and helping the UK reach net zero by 2050.

However, it’s no secret that times are tough for many landlords. Soaring interest rates, escalating costs, and the ongoing cost of living crisis mean many are focusing on property improvements that will boost their property’s market value, like a new kitchen or bathroom or an extension, and often overlooking the potential of eco-friendly upgrades.

If this dilemma sounds familiar, we’re here to tell you green renovations can also yield a substantial return on investment. As addressing climate change becomes more urgent, many renters now seek properties that minimise their environmental impact. Not only because they’re concerned about lowering their carbon footprint but also because these properties are usually more comfortable and cost-effective to live in.

In fact, a recent survey found that 42% of tenants consider a property’s environmental impact when searching for a rental property, increasing to 50% among renters in London. The same survey found that those who pay higher rent also tend to be more concerned about the rental property’s eco credentials. In contrast, a report by Centrica and British Gas found that only 13% of landlords believe their rental property is as environmentally friendly as it could be.

In this article, we’ll provide tips and ideas to help you fill this gap in the market by making your rental property more eco-friendly and explore the many benefits of doing so.

What are the benefits of reducing your rental property’s carbon footprint?

Ok, before we delve into how to make your buy-to-let more sustainable, let’s explore why eco-friendly upgrades are such good investments. Investing in sustainability has plenty of advantages – some benefit you, the landlord, while others benefit the tenant, all while helping to fight climate change. Everyone’s a winner. We predict that embracing sustainable practices could have more benefits than you realise!

Look after the environment – Did you know that, according to Lloyds Bank, 16% of carbon emissions come from domestic properties in the UK? The UK government has set an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net zero by 2050. Landlords will play a critical part in helping to achieve these national goals and fighting the climate crisis. To help achieve a greener future, landlords must commit to prioritising sustainability within their rental business strategies.

Comply with regulations – Under the Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations, landlords cannot let out a property unless it has a minimum rating of E on the Energy Performance Certificate (unless an exemption has been registered). The government introduced these standards to improve the energy efficiency and quality of privately rented homes in the UK. Landlords must also provide tenants with a copy of the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before they move in. The penalty for non-compliance with these regulations can be up to £5,000.

Reduce energy bills – The recent surge in energy prices has highlighted the importance of energy-efficient homes. Making your rental property more energy-efficient by reducing heat loss and minimising energy usage helps reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions while offering tenants lower energy bills.

Increase tenant comfort – Well-insulated and energy-efficient properties provide tenants with a warm and cosy living space. A comfortable living environment can improve tenant wellbeing and enhance their satisfaction with your service. Happier tenants are more likely to stay longer in your property.

Increase market rental value – Once you’ve made eco-friendly improvements to your rental property, you may be able to command higher rent to reflect this added value.

Increase demand and reduce void periods – As a nation, we’re becoming more environmentally conscious and sustainable properties are in high demand, especially among younger renters and those with higher incomes. Making eco-friendly improvements can make your property more appealing, increase demand, and reduce void periods.

Increase property value – Beyond the immediate benefits, making your rental property more sustainable can also increase its market value, offering you a better return on investment if you decide to sell it in the future.

How to create an eco-friendly rental property

If you’re sold on the benefits of creating an environmentally friendly rental property, your next question is probably – where should I start? Unfortunately, there is no one size to fit all when making your rental property more eco-friendly. The right steps depend on several factors, including how sustainable your property already is, property type, budget, target tenant demographic, and your business goals.

The best place to start is usually assessing how energy-efficient your buy-to-let is and identifying areas where there is room for improvement. Newer properties tend to be fairly energy-efficient, but older properties often require more work to bring them up to scratch. About 56% of the UK’s privately rented housing stock was built before 1965, and almost a third was built before 1920. So many landlords have their work cut out, as very old buildings tend to have poor energy efficiency ratings.

We’ve compiled a list of ideas for creating a more sustainable rental property. Some are quick wins, while others are more substantial renovations that demand more time and resources. Ultimately, you must choose the right improvements for you and your property. Remember, if you can only make incremental changes, taking small steps towards a greener and more energy-efficient rental property is better than taking no action at all.

Switch to renewable energy sources

Adopting renewable energy technologies for your rental property represents a substantial but rewarding investment toward sustainability. Transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar panels or a heat pump could significantly reduce your rental property’s reliance on fossil fuels and decrease energy bills. While it is a big commitment and not for everyone, installing renewable energy sources can be a big selling point, helping to differentiate your property from competitors and attracting eco-conscious tenants. However, before going down this route, the property must be well insulated to allow you to fully leverage the environmental and economic advantages of integrating renewable energy solutions.

Upgrade the boiler

If you’re not ready to adopt renewable energy technologies, upgrading to a modern, energy-efficient boiler is the next best thing. A new boiler may not seem like the most exciting or life-changing improvement, but it could significantly improve energy efficiency and slash carbon emissions. Modern condensing boilers must be at least 92% efficient, a stark contrast to the 60-70% efficiency of models over ten years old. So, if the boiler in your rental property is over a decade old, now could be the right time to swap it for a more efficient model.

Insulate to increase energy efficiency

  • Insulate the loft, walls, and floors

Did you know that the UK has the oldest homes in the world and the worst-insulated homes in all of Europe! The average home in the UK loses heat three times faster than a German property. So, if you’re renting out one of the UK’s older properties, what steps can you take to make it a more comfortable and energy-efficient living space? The answer is insulate, insulate, insulate. According to Northern Energy, 35-40% of a home’s heat is lost through its walls, 20% through its roof, and 10% through the floors. If your rental property has a poor energy performance rating, your first port of call should be to find out where the property is losing the most heat from – is it the roof? The floor? The walls? Once you’ve identified problem areas, it’s time to look for insulation solutions. Cavity wall insulation, roof or loft insulation, and underfloor insulation can all help to keep the property warmer, lower energy bills, and reduce its carbon footprint.

  • Draught-proof

As well as insulating your property, it’s also important to consider the smaller, often overlooked areas where heat is being lost. Check for gaps around windows and doors or between floorboards and fill or seal them to prevent heat loss and draughts. While sealing up your property can help with energy efficiency, it’s important to ensure it is still being ventilated to prevent a build-up of moisture, which could lead to problems like mould, damp, and condensation.

  • Insulate pipes

Pipe insulation, or lagging, is a simple yet effective way to minimise heat loss from hot water pipes. Having pipe insulation installed helps keep water hotter for longer by reducing the heat lost to the surrounding air. This means less energy is required to heat the water, reducing energy bills and improving the property’s overall energy efficiency.

  • Update to double or triple-glazed windows

If your property’s windows are due for an upgrade, then why not upgrade to double or triple-glazed windows to improve insulation and energy efficiency? According to an article in the Independent, triple-glazed windows can be as much as 40% more thermally efficient than standard A-rated double-glazed windows and 60% more efficient than C-rated double-glazed windows, reducing energy bills by up to 50%!

Invest in energy-efficient technology

  • Use a smart thermostat

Smart thermostats are compatible with most modern boilers. Popular brands of smart thermostats include Hive, Google Nest, Tado, and Honeywell. These devices use machine learning and algorithms to understand the household’s heating preferences and daily routines and then automatically adjust the heating accordingly to lower energy bills and reduce the property’s carbon footprint. Providing tenants with a smart thermostat allows them more precise control over their heating schedules, helping them to optimise their energy usage. Smart thermostats can also enhance tenants’ experience by providing handy features like remote heating control through a phone-based app.

  • Invest in energy-efficient appliances

When buying household appliances, does the appliance’s energy efficiency rating influence your buying decision? All new appliances are tested to see how much energy they use and then rated from A to G, with A being the most efficient. Appliances with a high energy rating use less electricity for the same performance level. If your rental property includes appliances, you can reduce carbon emissions by always choosing appliances with a high energy rating.

  • Use energy-efficient LED lightbulbs

While LED lightbulbs may be a little more expensive than the old incandescent lightbulbs, they make up for the initial outlay in longevity and energy savings. According to the Department of Energy, LEDs use 90% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs! If you haven’t already made the switch, make this your sign too!

Use sustainable practices to maintain the property

  • Practice sustainable gardening

If your rental property is lucky enough to benefit from an outdoor space, make it eco-friendly by planting native plants, a wildflower patch, or fruit trees, and avoid using chemical weedkillers. This will enhance the property’s appeal, support local biodiversity and help to improve air quality.

  • Use non-toxic paints and decorating materials

When it comes to maintaining and decorating your rental property, always use non-toxic, low-VOC paints and materials. This approach is not only better for the planet but also helps to ensure a safe and healthy indoor environment for tenants.

Encourage tenants to live a sustainable lifestyle

  • Encourage recycling

Provide tenants with clearly labelled recycling bins and information about local recycling policies to encourage them to recycle more efficiently. This helps to reduce waste sent to landfills and promotes a culture of sustainability within the property.

  • Supply a compost bin

If your rental property does have a green space, it could benefit from a compost bin. Many local councils offer compost bins at a reduced cost. Setting one up at the property can encourage tenants to compost kitchen and garden waste, which can eventually be used in the garden.

  • Install an electric car charging point

Electric vehicles are increasing in popularity, and installing an electric vehicle charging point at your rental property could make it more attractive to potential tenants who own or are considering owning an electric vehicle. Consider your target demographic carefully before proceeding with this one, though – it’s an addition best suited to high-earning young professionals or young families.

Government schemes for funding eco-friendly property upgrades

Reducing your rental property’s environmental impact may be very important, but it can also be very expensive if you’re dealing with an old and inefficient building. Recognising the impact of domestic properties on the environment, the government has introduced several schemes to support homeowners and landlords in making their properties more energy-efficient and sustainable. These schemes not only help to fight the climate crisis but also improve the quality of the rental market.

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme and the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) grants are two of the most popular schemes available.

Boiler Upgrade Scheme

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme provides grants of up to £7,500 to help fund the installation of eco-friendly heat pumps and biomass boilers.

Energy Company Obligation (ECO) grants

ECO grants can help fund the installation of insulation, modern heating systems, and other energy-saving measures to help landlords comply with Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES). Eligibility for these grants is restricted to properties with an EPC rating of D or lower, with eligible tenants occupying the property.

For landlords interested in making sustainable improvements to their rental properties, detailed information about these and other energy grants is available on the government website.

Whether you start small with recycling boxes and a compost bin or dive right in and invest in a renewable energy source for your rental property – every little step towards creating a greener property is a step in the right direction. It’s important to consider eco-friendly upgrades an investment rather than just another expense to add to the list. We’re not just talking about an investment in your own personal wealth either. Although making energy-efficient upgrades and greenifying your property will definitely help to enhance its appeal and value, adopting sustainable practices is also an investment in our planet’s future, safeguarding the environment for generations to come.

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