Press release: Engaging Private Landlords in Energy Efficiency

On 3rd December, Future of London, in partnership with EDF Energy, is launching our latest report: Engaging Private Landlords in Energy Efficiency.

More details on the launch event are available here, and you can follow the event on Twitter with #PRSenergy and @futureofldn. Presentations and a write-up of the event will be available on our website in the days following the launch.

This press release is also available to download here [PDF].

New report on how London boroughs can help private landlords raise energy standards

The private rented sector is the Capital’s only growing housing tenure, but the sector is failing many of its tenants – particularly the most vulnerable – with 10% more private-rented properties below Decent Homes standards than in both owner-occupied and social-rented tenures, and private renters disproportionately affected by excess cold and fuel poverty.

Forthcoming energy efficiency deadlines in The Energy Act 2011 signal the way for improving standards in the sector:

  • By 1 April 2016, landlords cannot unreasonably refuse energy efficiency improvements requested by the tenant
  • By 1 April 2018, ensuring that the landlord of a domestic property may not let the property until it meets set energy efficiency standards

But there are a number of obstacles that hamper the scale of change that is needed.

On 3rd December, with the support of EDF Energy, policy network Future of London launched a new research report, Engaging Private Landlords in Energy Efficiency, which advances a number of approaches London boroughs can take to work with private landlords and raise standards in the sector.

Future of London Head of Policy Jo Wilson said: “Given the age, condition and location of many private-rented homes, improving energy efficiency in the sector is really about retrofitting older stock, rather than new-build properties. These aging properties are often hard to insulate, with archaic boilers fighting leaky fabric. Many of these inner London properties are also in conservation areas, making retrofit particularly difficult.”

Persuading landlords to invest time, energy and money in their rental properties is vital to improving standards, and boroughs have a clear role to play, as regulatory authorities, users of private-rented housing for temporary accommodation, and in their efforts to house the growing ‘Generation Rent’ cohort who cannot afford to buy.

Future of London’s report identifies four challenges that boroughs face in this relationship with the PRS: an unfavourable funding landscape; physical barriers to retrofit; lack of communication channels with individual landlords; and weak incentives for landlords or tenants to act.

Taking each challenge in turn, the report offers practical responses boroughs can employ, from targeting funding opportunities at landlords with whom the borough already has a relationship, to using a balanced enforcement scheme to drive up the poorest standards.

An underlying challenge for authorities and researchers is the lack of data on landlords. The sector has grown rapidly over the last 10 years, with many boroughs’ PRS doubling in that time. These boroughs are under huge pressure to (a) protect the increasing number of vulnerable households in the PRS by improving standards while (b) retaining a reasonable quantum of private housing stock to meet overall housing need.

“Maintaining this balance without clear data on landlords or their properties is extremely challenging,” says Wilson.

The report concludes that current programmes, regulations and incentives are not enough to enable the ‘deep’ retrofit required for London’s aging rental properties at the scale needed to meet the Capital’s carbon and energy targets, and to ensure that improvements reach its most vulnerable tenants.

The report’s recommendations – including financial and regulatory measures, and an evaluation of landlord data-capture options – aim to facilitate the long-term improvement of this growing sector by fostering cooperation between boroughs and their landlords. With support from Trust for London, Future of London will conduct further research on these issues over the next 36 months.