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Our round-up of news items over the past week. This week we look at EPC ratings and a new police initiative offering advice for landlords on how to spot a cannabis farm.

EPC’s found to be based on outdated figures

Analysis by Ingleton Wood, a large property and construction consultancy, has shown that EPCs are  “misleading” indicators of zero-carbon buildings and should no longer be used as official guides to help lower emissions.

For example, the report highlights that electric heated homes, which number 2.1 million in England alone, have been using figures based on 2013 technology when the majority of the electrical grid was powered by coal and other fossil fuels,  In 2021, renewable energy is far more prevalent.

The emissions from the electrical grid since 2013 have been reduced by around 60%, meaning that figures that determine a property’s EPC are misleading. In September 2020, a government consultation found only 3% of industry respondents rated EPC reliability as “good”, with criticisms over energy usage and performance assessments.

The Government is looking to step up climate change action and considering requiring all properties to have a minimum EPC rating of band ‘C’ by 2025.   However for this to be meaningful and actually help reduce emissions it is. essential that the EPC assessment be brought up to date.

There is also the problem that gas heating is currently cheaper than electric – although this is probably mainly due to the way gas and electricity are taxed or subsidised – something that hopefully will be rectified by the Chancellor in due course (although the Chancellor seems curiously reluctant to correct our crazy tax rules regarding energy).

Plus many landlords are confused about how and when to replace their gas boilers.

Don’t over-regulate the sector says ARLA

ARLA Propertymark has issued a statement saying that it has constantly called for the enforcement of existing rules rather than asking for new ones.

We already have around 170+ pieces of legislation that landlords have to comply with and they need support rather than more new laws.  Their statement says:

A programme of support would ensure Local Housing Allowance rates and Universal Credit are adequate and more effective so that landlords and letting agents would have more confidence to offer tenancies to claimants. Local councils would also be given adequate funding to drive up standards through enforcement

They also say that government should move away from a ‘one size fits all’ policy on energy efficiency and develop proposals that work with different types and locations of properties – as discussed in the recent Lagging behind report.

As regards enforcement:

Research shows Local Authorities enforcement failure

Two-thirds of local authorities have failed to prosecute a single landlord relating to housing standards or the management of rented properties in the past 3 years, according to NRLA research.

In addition to this, 10% of local authorities had secured only one successful prosecution. Twenty local authorities were responsible for 77% of all successful prosecutions within England and Wales at that time also.

Furthermore, Among the councils who responded, only  937 successful prosecutions of criminal landlords had taken place over the past three years. This is despite government estimates in 2015 that there may be around 10,500 rogue landlords in operation.

The NRLA has responded by calling for greater funding to be given to local authorities to deal with rogue landlords. In addition, local authorities need to be more aware of the wide range of enforcement powers that they have against criminal and rogue landlords.

Ben Beadle, Chief executive of the NRLA said:

Our research illustrates that there is no clear link between the existence of a landlord licensing scheme and levels of prosecutions. Councils again need to be open with tenants and landlords about how such schemes are ensuring standards are met in rental housing.

Older homes values may fall due to EPC ratings

A business analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown has warned that the current importance of EPC ratings may reduce the property value of older houses.

Current ONS reports show that houses built before 1900 have an average score of only 54 in England and 51 in Wales, which is band ‘E’ of the EPC rating system. These properties would need the greatest amount of investment needed to reach the minimum EPC rating needed to rent out a property by 2025.

This type of investment may be too costly to some landlords, forcing them to take the property out of private renting. Also, with the costs of energy improvements and the low energy performance rating itself, these properties will no longer be attractive investment opportunities, which would reduce their value.

Police tips for agents and landlords to help find cannabis farms

This week a new campaign by the police is hoping to raise awareness on how to spot cannabis farms in private residential properties. Grows are not only illegal, but can result in thousands of damages to properties and can cause a serious fire risk as many of these properties have bypassed electrical supply as a way to hide themselves.

Neighbourhood Policing Sergeant Chris Stevens argued that cannabis farms:

can cause landlords serious issues too including property damage, ceilings and walls being knocked through, wiring ripped out, floorboards removed, furniture destroyed and water damage. A cannabis farm in the property also increases the risk of fire or explosion.

The police have advised landlords and agents to be wary of any of the following signs of potential cannabis growing:

  • High levels of condensation in the property
  • Lack of frost/snow on roofs in times of cold weather
  • Windows constantly covered
  • High levels of heat and condensation in a unit, resulting in peeling paint or mildewed wallboard or carpet. Heavy condensation at the windows may also be seen
  • A sudden jump/fall in electricity bills
  • Cannabis growing equipment, for example, lighting and ventilation equipment

Landlords should be aware of these issues during property inspections and report suspected properties to the police.  See also our post a couple of years ago on the ‘growing problem’ of cannabis farms.

Snippets

Newsround will  be back next week.



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