As from the 1st April 2018 there will be a requirement for any properties rented out in the private rented sector to normally have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The regulations will come into force for new lets and renewals of tenancies with effect from 1st April 2018 and for all existing tenancies on 1st April 2020. It will be unlawful to rent a property which breaches the requirement for a minimum E rating, unless there is an applicable exemption. A civil penalty of up to £4,000 will be imposed for breaches. This guidance summarises the regulations. There are separate regulations effective from 1st April 2016 under which a tenant can apply for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements in privately rented properties.
The Regulations apply to domestic private rented sector properties in England and Wales. This means –
The EPC must be the current EPC if there is one and this must be no more than 10 years old.
Properties within scope will include any domestic privately rented property which: has an EPC, and is either (i) required to have an EPC; or (ii) is within a larger unit which itself is required to have an EPC, either at point of sale, or point of let. No changes are made to existing regulations regarding the provision of EPCs.
The following domestic buildings are excluded from the scope of the requirements:
The extent of the exclusion of listed buildings from the scope of the requirements is unclear. Likewise, in the case of dwellings located within conservation areas. The Regulations state that this exemption is “insofar as compliance with certain minimum energy efficiency requirements which would unacceptably alter their character or appearance”. This exemption is based on a similarly worded exemption from the need to obtain an EPC. Clearly, if a listed building or dwelling within a conservation area does not have an EPC then the Regulations do not apply because only the existence of an EPC triggers the need to comply with the minimum standards. There is a widely held view that all listed buildings are exempt from the need to obtain an EPC, even if they are sold or let out, but, again, the exact scope of this exemption is not clear. The RLA has prepared a more detailed note on this complex subject.
Improvement work which can be required is any energy efficiency improvement work which qualified for Green Deal and the installation of gas for an off gas property so long as the mains are within 23 metres from the property. A list of eligible improvements appears below.
So long as the minimum E rating is obtained, it is left to the landlord to choose which works need to be carried out. Obviously there is nothing to stop a higher rating being achieved.
A domestic private rented sector property is substandard if the EPC rating is F or G, unless an exemption applies. The legislation prohibits a landlord from letting out a substandard property. If there is an EPC in place which shows that the property is an F or G then it must not be let; otherwise the landlord is liable to penalties. This is subject to any available exemptions. Energy efficiency improvements must be carried out to bring the property up to an E rating at the minimum, unless one of the exemptions is applicable. In particular, if the work cannot be carried out so as to meet the Green Deal Golden Rule then there is potentially an exemption. Under the Golden Rule there should be no upfront costs (or any net cost to the landlord) because savings resulting from the works should repay their cost over the expected lifetime of the works.
If a landlord lets and continues to let the property in breach of the regulations, however, the breach does not affect the validity or legality of the tenancy itself, so the rent still continues to be payable.
Only appropriate, permissible and cost-effective improvements are required under the regulations. Landlords will be eligible for an exemption from reaching the minimum standard where they can provide evidence that one of the following applies:
All exemptions will be required to be notified to the PRS Exemptions Register which will be operated by the Government. It is planned that this will open from 1st October 2017. It will be essentially a database of exemptions and will be open to public inspection. Failure to register any exemption will render the exemption ineffective, and will amount to non-compliance with the regulations. The Enforcement Authority will be entitled to require landlords to furnish them with evidence supporting a claim for an exemption. Landlords will also be in breach of the regulations if they claim an exemption to which they are not properly entitled.
Exemptions will only endure for 5 years. They will then need to be reviewed to see if they are still effective. If not the work will have to be carried out.
Note: the Regulations actually come into force on 1st October 2016. This is purely for the purpose of allowing landlords to claim exemptions early so that they had their exemption claim in place prior to implementation on 1st April 2018.