A tenant who raved about a Victorian property when she came to view it — won over by its bare floorboards and period features including sash windows, fireplaces and lofty ceilings — has complained a week after moving in that she's cold.
Er, well yes, these character properties do look nice, but they freeze the nose off you in the winter. I know this because I, too, live in a Victorian property and right now, even as I type, there's a gale-force wind blowing through the gaps in my sash windows and a nasty draft blasting down the chimney. For most of March so far I've had to wear woolly gloves, a hat and scarf INSIDE the house. Often it's warmer outside.
My advice to tenants would be this: don't rent a period property unless you're comfortable wearing Uniqlo's affordable thermals all winter.
If this isn't your look, find a more modern place with double glazing, carpets and no fireplaces. I sympathise with the tenant, but really she ought to have looked at the flat's Energy Performance Certificate before she agreed to rent it.
If the large, single-glazed sash windows weren't a big enough clue that it would be cold in the winter, the energy rating would have told her that the place is leaking heat. I paid £50 for that certificate — the least she could have done was read it.
However, a letting agent has alerted me to a new government-backed initiative called the Green Deal, where tenants or landlords can, with each other's permission, install energy-saving measures such as double glazing, loft insulation and draught-proofing without any upfront costs. Marc Von Grundherr, of Benham & Reeves Lettings, reckons that it's a "win-win situation" because the cost of the improvements is added on to energy bills in installments, so the landlord pays nothing. I'm liking the sound of this.
Also, a "golden rule" states that energy bills in the first year can't be any higher than they were before the improvements, so the tenant doesn't pay any extra, either.
This does sound marvellous, but, in the case of the Victorian property under discussion, I don't think the maths add up. I've looked again at the Energy Performance Certificate and it estimates the improvements will cost anything from £4,180 to £14,470, yet they will only reduce energy bills by £531 over three years.
At best, it will take nearly 24 years to pay for the improvements. As far as I'm aware, the tenant only plans to stay for two. This means subsequent tenants will be paying for the work through their energy bills until 2037.
The building might have fallen down by then. And I'm worried that having these costs hanging over them will put tenants off renting the flat, especially as it might mean they won't have the freedom to switch to a cheaper energy provider.
Marc at Benham & Reeves might think this is a win-win deal, but his company admits that none of the landlords it represents has rushed into applying for these Green Deal loans. Of course, landlords are going to have to improve the energy efficiency of draughty period properties eventually.
By 2016, the Government is planning to make it compulsory for landlords to agree to reasonable requests from tenants to install energy-saving measures. By 2018 it will be illegal to let a property which has less than an E energy efficiency rating.
In the meantime, I think I'll just replace the colonial-effect wooden blinds (which the tenant also loved) with thermal-lined curtains and throw down some thick rugs.
Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock
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