5 questions answered on changing EPC rules

16 August 2023

EPC rating changes were previously outlined in a government consultation - so what's changing and where are we at? David Smith, Partner at JMW Solicitors, explains.

David Smith, Partner at JMW Solicitors, recently joined a Goodlord webinar with an update on the latest lettings legislation - and here's what he had to say about  changing Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rules and minimum energy efficiency standards.

What are the current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rules?

David Smith: It's all been a bit of a messy position. As I'm sure everyone is aware, you're not allowed to rent out a property - either as a new let or a continuing let - with an EPC rating of an F or a G, you must have E or better.

If you have an F or a G rating and you want to let your property, you must either demonstrate that it's impossible to do the work; that the tenant won't let you do the work; a superior landlord won't let you do the work; or that the work can't be done within the financial threshold.

And you must register that with the appropriate website run by the government - I do tend to find that a lot of people do not register with the website.  If you're not registered, you are in fact committing an offence.

Where are we at with the incoming EPC rules?

DS: Carbon production in domestic premises is quite substantial. The government obviously needs to reduce our carbon emissions one way or another because we've agreed to, internationally - and the planet probably requires it.

So the government had a consultation, where they said that they were aiming at a C so anything with a D to G rating would not be something that you could rent. Then they proposed a phased timeline of 2025 for new lets, and 2028 for existing lets less.

Then everything went a little bit quiet. The normal position on a consultation is that people respond, and then the government produces a summary of all their responses and their response to the responses and what they propose to do. And none of that has happened.

When could the new rules come into play?

DS: So the position now is that it was always going to be impossible to get to C by 2025. The government has left it too long. If you turn around today and say, everyone's got to make a C grade by 2025, it's just never going to happen.

Now, I'd be incredibly surprised if the government made any solid announcement on this whole issue prior to effectively the end of 2024, which is probably when a election is going to be.

What support is available?

DS: The answer is not a lot, actually. And, of course, the government's not inclined to put more support behind something that they're not really announcing and therefore they're not wanting to put too much money behind.

Also, the government's a bit short on money. Support currently is within the existing eco schemes, which are run essentially by individual energy provider companies, which they're required to under what's called Eco2.

Those schemes are hugely variable in extent and availability. Some of them are available to private sector landlords, some of them are not. Some of them are only available to social landlords, which seems a bit bizarre. So there is a real shortage of available support at this stage.

What should agents and landlords do to prepare?

DS: Do what you would do anyway, which is to maintain your properties. Obviously, if you're going down the road of maintaining a property, then I would suggest it's sensible to look at maintenance that is going to improve its energy efficiency rating.

I'll use myself as an example. I actually have an air source heat pump.I didn't do it just because I wanted to be green. I had to replace my boiler. It was going to cost me quite a lot of money to buy a new gas boiler. It was also going to cost me quite a lot of money to buy an air source heat pump.

But the reality is, the two amounts of money were not that far apart, given the size of the installation I needed. And obviously it means that my gas bills have dropped dramatically, which leads to me being very smug of late!

The reality is people do need to work on this. But I would try to do it within existing tax deductible repair as opposed to jumping out there and making radical improvements. 

This article has been edited for clarity and brevity, based on the recent Goodlord webinar. The information is guidance only, and not intended as legal advice. 

Further reading