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Four out of five landlords want higher energy efficiency standards, polling shows

Research from the Social Market Foundation suggests there is little support for the government’s backtracking on energy performance upgrades.

By Megan Kenyon

After Rishi Sunak cancelled the requirement for homeowners to upgrade their properties to minimum energy efficiency standards by 2025, polling from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) reveals almost 80 per cent of landlords actually want stricter standards.

On 20 September, the Prime Minister announced that the government would no longer take forward plans that would require all landlords to upgrade their properties to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating C by 2025.

However, in a new report published today called “Insulating Britain“, SMF’s survey shows that a majority of landlords (79 per cent) think they should be subject to more stringent energy efficiency measures. The poll shows that only 11 per cent of the private landlords surveyed were opposed to an increase in minimum energy efficiency standards to EPC rating C from their current required level of EPC rating E.

The SMF surveyed 1,200 people, of which 132 were private landlords, 672 were owner-occupiers, 204 were private renters and 192 were social housing renters. The think tank then conducted five focus groups with 38 members of the public, which also included private sector landlords.

EPC ratings range from A to G, with A being the most energy efficient. Most homes in the UK are currently rated D. EPC ratings are calculated by assessing levels of insulation in a home and potential sources of energy loss, including the floor, walls and roof. Other factors are also covered by the assessment, such as windows, heating systems, lighting and electrical items, with each segment being scored on condition and efficiency.

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Sunak suggested he was scrapping the requirements in order to protect tenants from unfair rent hikes that would occur due to raising the standard.

[See also: Tory councilors deliver dire verdict on the Sunak government]

However, it is likely that without proper action on home insulation, tenants' energy bills will likely continue to increase. The UK's housing stock is among the least energy efficient in Europe, and earlier research by the SMF highlighted that private renters in England and Wales are set to waste £1.1bn on energy that leaks out of their walls and windows.

As part of its polling, the SMF spoke to landlords across the private sector, owner-occupiers, and tenants about the Prime Minister’s decision to scrap the measure. Many of the landlords expressed some consternation at the U-turn, pointing out the uncertainty that has been created by Sunak’s change of tack.

The SMF’s research found that both landlords, and owner-occupiers currently have low trust in the insulation industry. However, the think tank recommends councils and other local authorities should take a more central role in increasing trust by becoming a “one-stop shop” for advice and information for property owners.

Labour, by contrast, has said it will reinstate the policy if it forms the next government. The party has pledged to devise a Warm Homes Plan, which will offer devolved administrations more power to upgrade the energy efficiency standards of every home in their area to EPC rating C within the next ten years.

The SMF’s polling also found that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the schemes that are on offer to assist homeowners in properly insulating their properties. Almost half of those surveyed by the SMF (46 per cent), which included homeowners, landlords and tenants, said they were not aware of any government schemes to help residents upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes.

However, the government currently has several schemes open to the public for home insulation and has invested £12bn into these. They include the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the Home Upgrade Scheme, the Sustainable Warmth Competition, the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, and the Energy Company Obligation.

Niamh O’Regan, a researcher at the SMF and author of the "Insulating Britain" report described British homes as being on a “dismal trajectory when it comes to improving energy efficiency”. She added that recent announcements from government “seem to suggest that renters can either have energy-efficient homes or affordable rents”.

“Instead of trying to understand landlords and how they can be motivated to better insulate their properties, the government would rather kick the can down the road, pushing us further and further from greener, healthier and more net-zero friendly homes,” O’Regan added.

[See also: Sunak’s net zero U-turn breaks with international opinion]

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