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A Warmer Winter?

Monday November 6, 2017

We are delighted to be classified ‘highly rated’ in the Best Estate Agent Guide 2018, particularly since this award is based upon the experience of ‘blind shoppers’. This means professionals have posed as customers and rated us on the quality of information and service provided, a system that seems fairer than basing the award on a slick presentation from marketing professionals.

At the awards ceremony much of the talk was about the forthcoming Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) due to come into force in April 2018. MEES means that landlords of privately rented domestic property must ensure that their properties reach at least an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of E before granting a tenancy to new or existing tenants.

On the face of it this seems an excellent idea. EPC bands F and G basically mean the tenant is living in a property with all the energy efficiency of a cave. But as is so often the case with sweeping legislation it is not hard to spot trouble ahead.

An EPC rating is largely determined by good insulation, a modern condensing boiler and adequate heating control systems. All our property refurbishments since 2008 have included these improvements. We do this in part to comply with the latest building regulations, but there is a commercial benefit too.

A property with a higher EPC band will attract a higher rental return since the tenant will be paying less for their energy. Another factor is that an increasing number of our young professional tenants have genuine concern about their carbon footprint and environmental impact. The higher the EPC band the less carbon is generated by the property.

We are fortunate in a relatively affluent area like Heaton. Here money spent on refurbishing a property will demonstrate a return on investment by renting the property to young professionals. The case for investment in less affluent areas is harder to make due to the lower rental return. Yet it is our most deprived areas that should benefit from MEES since low income tenants are hit hardest by higher energy bills.

When David Cameron announced in May 2010 that the coalition government would be “the greenest ever” he sought to usher in a new era. Since then we have seen support for solar power and renewable heat cut to the bone and grants for insulation almost abolished.

MEES is a laudable initiative if it gets our most vulnerable tenants out of fuel poverty but if this comes at the cost of landlords unloading poorly performing rental properties it may come at too high a price. To quote ex Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, “Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty and advancing economic growth, these must be one and the same fight. Solutions to one problem must be solutions to all”. Let us hope MEES turns out to be a solution rather than a problem.

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