Accidental landlord:tenants have new rights to make your property more energy efficient

Is this new legislation an April fool joke - why would tenants want to spend their own money on a property owned by someone else?

How disappointing. So far none of my tenants has asked if they can carry out any energy-saving improvements to my properties, despite the fact that renters have just been given new rights to make their homes more fuel-efficient.

I was rather hoping my lot would want to replace the draughty windows with some expensive double glazing, or put in a new boiler, or at least inject some cavity wall insulation, all at their own expense.

I’m joking, of course. I would be gobsmacked if any tenants were willing to spend their own money boosting energy efficiency. Whoever in the Government came up with this new bit of legislation must have thought it would make a great April Fool joke, given that it was introduced on the first of the month.

How likely is it that any tenant would shell out hundreds or even thousands of pounds to cut their energy bills in a property owned by someone else, when they’d probably have to live there for the rest of their lives to recover their investment?

Still, if any landlord does receive a request from a tenant keen to carry out such work, they had better take it seriously. The rules state that landlords must respond to such requests within a month. Landlords don’t have to pay for the work, but they can’t “unreasonably” withhold permission for the tenant to go ahead.

It’s possible some so-called “improvements”, such as replacing timber sash windows with uPVC, might devalue a property, but apparently that’s not a good enough excuse to block the work, unless you can prove that the changes would knock more than five per cent off the price.

If a tenant asked me if they could do any work at all, I would ask for proof that they could afford to pay for it, just to make sure I wouldn’t be left with a bill to finish it off. And I would want to see a detailed breakdown of the project. I would also want to check the credentials of the individual or company carrying out the work, and to make sure they were adequately insured. I don’t want some cowboy doing a botch job, and I would oversee it.

From 2018, it will be illegal to re-let a property with an energy performance rating of less than E and landlords with tenants already living in properties rated F or worse will have to improve them by 2020.

One way to improve a property’s energy rating is to replace an old boiler with a modern one. Sadly, the Government has withdrawn tax breaks for landlords who improve their properties’ energy use, but replace an old boiler now and you might get a £400 voucher under the Mayor of London’s Boiler Cashback scheme.

The catch is that you or your letting agent must be an accredited member of Mayor Boris Johnson’s London Rental Standard.

Also, there are only 6,500 vouchers, to be awarded on a first come, first served basis, so you’d better hurry.

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