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This week’s look at the news has items on energy efficiency and new help for tenants.

Tenants facing eviction to receive free legal advice earlier under new proposals

This week the Government announced that tenants in England and Wales will receive free legal advice earlier in legal proceedings under measures proposed by the Ministry of Justice.

Currently, tenants can receive ‘on the day’ court advice and support if they face proceedings in court. However, over the pandemic, the Government implemented a trial policy of temporarily allowing tenants facing possession proceedings to receive advice and support before the court appearance.

The Ministry of Justice said that the earlier access to advice and support meant that some cases did not have to go to court. This allows the underfunded court system to deal with more pressing and complex cases as well as streamlining more routine cases which helps both landlords and tenants.

The temporary change to legal aid contracts was deemed a success by the Ministry of Justice, so there are proposals for the alteration for it to be made permanent. This is likely to happen in 2022.

MP’s pushing heat renewable technology in PRS but Landlords still not convinced

A cross-party survey has revealed this week that 56% of MP’s believe that a green energy retrofit should be made a priority to British homes.

In addition,  almost half of MPs surveyed supported the removal of VAT on all renewables and energy efficiency measures. Other proposals included phasing out fossil fuels through rebates and subsidies, offering zero per cent interest retrofitting loans and long-term grant schemes to shift domestic heating reliance on volatile natural gas markets to sustainable heating solutions.

However many landlords are still reluctant to make such heavy investments into their property. New research from The Mortgage Works reveal that 52% of landlords with properties rated D or below are considering selling their property because of the energy efficiency rules.

Under current proposals properties will need an EPC rating of band ‘C’ for all new tenancies by 2025, and all existing tenancies by 2028.

The poll also revealed a difference between portfolio landlords and landlords with one or two properties. Those with larger portfolios are more likely to have considered selling some or all properties, with 58% of those with between six and 10 properties admitting they have done so, compared to just 33% of those with just one property.

Arla Propertymark’s campaigns manager Timothy Douglas said:

As domestic energy use accounts for 14 percent of overall UK emissions and 90 per cent of homes in England currently use fossil fuels – improving the energy efficiency of the nation’s housing stock is one of the most significant challenges in reaching net zero emissions.

The private rented sector has its part to play, but in recent years, landlords have faced considerable legislative change, and during a time of financial strain due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which will continue to have lasting effects, the costs of bringing housing stock up to EPC Band C will be a significant challenge for many.

If the alarming number of landlords who have considered selling up within The Mortgage Works report go on to do so, it will have a detrimental effect on not only the UK government’s ambitions to reach Net Zero, but also for the thousands of renters looking to be housed as stock levels deplete.

In some parts of the market, this will put additional burdens on local authorities and increase demand for social rented housing as not everyone can afford to buy.

To support the longevity of the private rented sector, the UK government must introduce realistic and achievable targets that take into account the diversity of the country’s housing stock.

Furthermore, without incentives and sustained funding options that landlords can tap into, it is unlikely that the UK government’s proposals for energy efficiency will be met.

Public accounts committee slams green homes grants scheme

The scheme which was supposed to support homeowners and landlords in England carry out ‘green’ improvements has been strongly criticised by the Public Accounts committee who are concerned it may risk damaging future efforts to deliver net zero.

The scheme only upgraded in the region of 47,000 homes instead of the planned 600,000 and also failed to deliver on creating new jobs.

Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, said:

It cost the taxpayer £50m just to administer the pointlessly rushed through Green Homes Grant scheme, which delivered a small fraction of its objectives, either in environmental benefits or the promised new jobs.

We heard it can take 48 months – four years – to train the specialists required to implement key parts of a scheme that was dreamed up to be rolled out in 12 weeks. It was never going to work at this time, in this way, and that should have been blindingly obvious to the department. That it was not is a serious worry, I am afraid there is no escaping the conclusion that this scheme was a slam dunk fail.

It would be good to hear that steps are being put in place to train the specialists needed.  Hopefully, this is in hand.


Newsround will be back next week.

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