Ahead of Thursday’s elections, Generation Rent is calling on councils to identify local private rented homes that fail Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES).
It says councils should take action to bring properties up to standard, while giving tenants protection from eviction and a chance to claim back rent.
Generation Rent analysed EPC data to assess the scale of the problem in each region in England. A total of 201,000 homes recorded as private rented are classed as F on their EPCs and 62,000 are classed as G, out of a total of 4,265,000 with an EPC.
Recent research by JLL found that, following the increase in the energy price cap, the average energy bill for a Band G property is now £4,950 per year and £3,587 for a Band F home. For a home at the legal minimum of Band E, the average bill is £2,687. Upgrading a Band F home to the legal minimum would therefore save the average tenant £900 per year and upgrading a Band G home is worth £2,263. Across all households affected, landlords’ failure to comply with the law is worth £321m per year.
Since April 2020, under MEES, landlords are no longer allowed to let out a home with an EPC band of less than E, unless it has an exemption. As of 1st July 2020, just 9,269 private rented properties had an exemption from MEES.
Local authorities are responsible for enforcing MEES. Generation Rent made Freedom of Information requests to councils accounting for two thirds of England’s private renter population. Of the 101 councils that provided information about their MEES enforcement work in 2020-21, just 13 issued enforcement notices, a total of 359.
Barnsley Council issued the most notices (181), followed by Bristol (35) and Thanet (30).
Landlords failing MEES are only liable for a maximum fine of £5,000, and their tenants are not protected from eviction if they complain or eligible to claim money back to compensate for higher bills.
However, Generation Rent points out that councils enforcing MEES can usually serve non-compliant landlords with improvement notices on the basis that the home is too cold to be considered safe. This protects tenants from a retaliatory eviction for six months and gives them the basis to claim back rent through a Rent Repayment Order if the landlord fails to make the necessary improvements.
As voters elect councillors on 5th May, Generation Rent is calling on councils to commit to using publicly accessible data on EPCs to identify tenants in cold homes and all their enforcement powers, including improvement notices, to protect them.
Alicia Kennedy, Director of Generation Rent, comments: “A quarter of a million households are in homes too cold to be legal and with energy bills through the roof, they are paying hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds more than they should as a result. People will miss meals, get ill, and fall into arrears as a result of their landlord’s negligence. “Councils have the data and the powers they need to protect the most vulnerable tenants – but at the moment most are not using them. The government needs to act much faster to ensure that private landlords insulate their properties, including by reforming tenancies to give tenants more confidence to exercise their rights.”