United Kingdom

Unknown energy costs could harm tenants this winter

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A row of terraced houses covered in snow

A lack of Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) enforcement is putting tenants at risk from high energy costs or cold homes, according to new research from automated rental payment and client accounting specialists PayProp UK.

In recent months PayProp sent Freedom of Information requests to the Scottish government and some of the country's biggest councils, including Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, and Glasgow. What transpired is that neither central nor local authorities appear to know how many rental properties do not have an EPC.

Legal and necessary

Since 4 January 2009 it has been a legal requirement for a Scottish rental property to have a valid EPC and display it when advertising the property to let.

The rationale is clear – an EPC is essential to enable tenants to make informed choices about their expected energy costs of living in a rented property. This is particularly relevant at a time when household budgets are significantly constrained. The Scottish government is predicting that 46% of households in the private rented sector (PRS) will face fuel poverty this December.

What’s more, none of the local councils listed have ever fined a landlord for not having a valid EPC for their rental property or for advertising a property for rent without one. That includes Glasgow, which is represented in the Scottish Parliament by Patrick Harvie, Green MSP and Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants' Rights.

PayProp says its research points to a lack of enforcement across Scotland’s biggest rental markets, which is putting tenants at risk.

Prioritise enforcement against the small minority of landlords

Neil Cobbold, managing director of PayProp UK said, “We were surprised to find that none of the officials we spoke to were able to answer how many private rented properties lacked a valid EPC, and that across Scotland’s biggest cities, no landlord had ever been fined for not having one.”

“Both national and local governments need to do more to ensure tenants are warm this winter. Enforcement should be a priority against a small but no less significant number of landlords who do not comply with current environmental rules. This is especially important as the Scottish government has singled out high energy costs and fuel poverty rates among private renters as a key part of its justifications for continuing to cap rent increases in the latest review of The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022.”

“With further regulations proposed for the private rented sector, we are keen to ensure the existing systems are working properly to support tenants and help guide the minority of landlords that do not comply, before introducing further measures for all landlords that could subsequently go un-enforced. To enhance adherence to existing regulations, landlords can engage a registered letting agent. These professionals can assist them in navigating the rules that govern the Scottish PRS."

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