As Britain continues to seek new ways of meeting its greenhouse gas reduction targets of 60% of 1990 levels by 2050, the government is always looking for new areas for improvement. The latest sector to come under scrutiny is the private rental sector. This area has boomed recently as potential home buyers who have struggled to find mortgage approvals, have turned to rental accommodation.
A crackdown on landlords who let draughty or energy inefficient properties has been announced by Chris Huhne, the Climate Change Secretary. Under the new system more than 680,000 properties will have to be upgraded over the next seven years. However the proposals are sure to meet resistance from landlords who claim to already be struggling with rising costs. In a speech to the House of Commons, the minister insisted he was part of the greenest government ever, saying that the measures were part of a new 'green deal' that would significantly cut emissions from the country's building stock. The new measures will mean households can take out loans of up to £10,000 from the local supermarket to carry out energy efficiency measures on their homes, like double glazing windows or solid wall insulation.
The legislation to put this new 'deal' in place had been criticised for not being tough enough on the private sector, but in a surprise move Mr Huhne said landlords that refuse to upgrade properties to at specified energy efficiency rating will face a penalties. Landlords will have to insulate cavity walls and even install micro-generation capabilities in the future or face sanctions. The punishments, which are set to come in from 2018, have not been decided but it is likely to be a rising scale of fines.
"The Government has made it clear that renting out dangerously cold and draughty homes is unacceptable – landlords will have to improve their properties or face prosecution," said Mr Huhne. Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth's Warm Homes campaigner, welcomed the legislation. "Legislation to ensure rented homes meet a basic standard of insulation is a bold and significant step forward which will protect many vulnerable families from fuel poverty and high energy bills in the future," he said.
But the Association of Residential Letting Agents voiced concerns that some landlords will keep property off the market, rather than pay for the refurbishment. "There is a risk that property could just lay empty," said a spokesman. Either way the legislation is going to be passed in some form, and with the rental market continuing to rise, it will have serious implications for the UK housing stock of the future.