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07/04/17 10:32

Improving Scotland’s private rented sector properties

Consultation on energy efficiency and condition standards.

New proposals to ensure all privately rented homes in Scotland meet a minimum standard of energy efficiency have been published today for consultation.

The consultation seeks views on requiring all private rented sector properties to have a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of ‘E’ at a change in tenancy from 2019 – and rising to EPC level ‘D’ from 2022.

Around 28% of private rented sector properties have the lowest energy efficiency ratings of E, F and G – compared to 22% in the owner occupied sector and 10% in the social housing sector.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said the proposals would help improve the quality and standard of housing for private sector tenants and support measures to tackle fuel poverty.

Mr Stewart said:       

“Energy efficiency is a national priority and is key to tackling fuel poverty and meeting our ambitious climate change targets.

“Private renting makes up 14% of Scotland’s homes and is an increasingly important housing option for many people in Scotland at different points in their lives. It is only fair that tenants who rent privately have access to good quality and energy efficient homes.

“Minimum standards have a key role to play in driving improvement. While most private landlords are delivering homes to modern, highly energy efficient standards, we must recognise that there are also tenants living in some of the least energy efficient homes in Scotland. These people face higher energy bills and are at greater risk of being pushed into fuel poverty.

“This consultation sets out a series of proposals which aims to balance the need to make homes more energy efficient - whilst maintaining a successful private rented sector as a housing option for many thousands of households.

“We want this consultation to facilitate a discussion with landlords, tenants and other interested parties and we will listen carefully to views as the consultation progresses. We see this as the next step in the journey towards delivering our ambition to eradicating poor energy efficiency as a cause of fuel poverty.”

The consultation Energy efficiency and condition standards in private rented housing – a Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme consultation also examines what further measures can be taken to ensure the condition of privately rented properties is at the right standard.

It seeks views on making changes to the repairing standard, which would improve the safety standards and physical condition expected of properties and bring the private rented sector closer to the standard required in social rented housing.

Lori McElroy, Chair of the Existing Homes Alliance, said:

"We have been urging the Scottish Government to act on fuel poverty in the private rented sector, and these proposals could spell an end to many tenants suffering from cold, draughty and expensive to heat homes. Almost one in seven Scottish residents rent privately, and the evidence shows they are in a particularly vulnerable position on this issue. Unlike social housing tenants, they have no statutory protection in this area, and in some cases they are unable to get work done themselves and may not be able to persuade their landlord to take care of it either.

"However, we know that good landlords already ensure that the properties they rent are well-insulated and affordable to live in, with many private properties already meeting the same high standards we see in the best of owner-occupied or housing association properties.

“It is unfair that these landlords have to compete with a small minority who are less concerned for their tenants' wellbeing. These proposals are therefore a golden opportunity to make a better private rented sector for future generations as well as those renting today."

John Blackwood, Chief Executive of Scottish Association of Landlords, said:

 

"The Scottish Association of Landlords welcomes this consultation. We look forward to contributing to the conversation on how we can improve energy efficiency in the private rented sector and deal with the issue of hard to treat properties in some parts of Scotland. "

Background

The consultation can be viewed on the Scottish Government website.

Since 2009, the Scottish Government has allocated over £650 million to help tackle fuel poverty and improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes, and the share of homes in the top three energy efficiency ratings has increased by 74% since 2010.  

The Scottish Government has designated energy efficiency as a National Infrastructure Priority, the cornerstone of which will be Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme. This consultation focuses on the role of minimum standards in the private rented sector, which will form part of the 15-20 year programme alongside the wider development of incentives and support mechanisms.

The consultation has been informed by engagement with housing sector professionals and sits alongside the separate consultation on Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme and the draft Climate Change Plan, which were published in January.

More on the minimum energy efficiency standards:

  • The consultation proposes exceptions to the standard to ensure that measures are only installed when they are technically feasible and not excessively costly.
  • Landlords would have six months from the point of assessment to improve their properties. It is proposed that an owner who fails to comply with the standard would be subject to a civil fine.
  • Views are also sought on whether the standard should go beyond EPC level ‘D’ at some point.

The Scottish Government has a range of support schemes available to landlords and tenants to fund improvements to energy efficiency in homes including the £30 million Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland: Loans where individual householders can apply for an interest-free loan of up to £15,000 (with up to 25% cashback) to install a variety of energy efficient measures.

Proposed changes to the Repairing standard were informed by the Scottish Government’s recent forum on common housing quality standards involving representatives of private rented sector landlords and other housing professionals, taking account of developments since the standard was introduced following the 2006 Housing Act.