NEA comment on ‘Green Deal Home Improvement Fund’

Today the UK Government has released further information on the ‘Green Deal Home Improvement Fund’. The national fuel poverty charity, National Energy Action (NEA) has released the following comment:

The Chancellor’s 2013 Pre-Budget Statement committed to a new energy efficiency grant to specifically support private landlords to increase the energy efficiency of their properties. It was stated that this new funding would improve around 15,000 of the least energy efficient rental properties each year, for 3 years. Whilst the introduction of any recurrent funding for domestic energy efficiency in England is broadly welcome, the details released today have dashed hopes that the new incentive will specifically prioritise the needs of low income tenants and provide clarity that landlords will continue to have overall responsibility for ensuring their properties are fit for habitation. The need for further intervention in private sector housing is acute as it continues to represents the least energy efficient housing stock and contains a higher proportion of fuel poor households.

There also continues to be an unexplained delay to the publication of the Government’s energy efficiency regulations in the Private Rented Sector and their proposals to tackle fuel poverty in England overall. The Government must set out its objectives and specify the dates for achieving these. Ambitious minimum energy efficiency standards could end the scandal of the poorest households living in the most expensive to heat homes, and give near term and lasting confidence to the energy efficiency industry (and local authorities). With 65% of fuel poor households in England still living in the least energy efficient properties (homes rated E, F or G), time is ticking for the Government to clarify these issues and provide a clear objective for the pace and required scale of investment needed to address the worst of our existing housing stock.
 


 

Notes

1.   National Energy Action (NEA) is the UK’s leading Fuel Poverty Charity, see www.nea.org.uk.

2.   Today’s Ministerial Statement can be found here.

3.   From April 2016, domestic landlords in England and Wales should not be able to unreasonably refuse requests from their tenants for energy efficiency improvements. It is also expected that from April 2018, all private rented properties (domestic and non-domestic) should be brought up to a minimum energy efficiency standard rating. There continues to be an unexplained delay to the introduction of the draft PRS energy efficiency regulations and continuing disagreement on the extent to which compliance with future regulations should fall on the tenant or, through the Energy Company Obligation, on energy consumers (instead of the landlord or additional forms of public funding). There is also a growing concern that tenants need protection from “retaliatory eviction” with growing numbers of tenants unwilling to ask their landlords to enforce their rights to repairs due to fears of eviction. Without protection from retaliatory eviction, it is likely that in an increasingly competitive rented housing market (especially in areas like London) tenants will be unlikely to make requests for energy efficiency improvements. This is despite some of these properties (and landlords) falling foul of minimum safety requirements within the Housing Health and Safety Rating Scheme.

4.   Following the findings of the Independent Review of Fuel Poverty in England led by Professor John Hills[1], the Government set out in the Energy Act 2013 a continued commitment to tackle fuel poverty in England[2]. The proposals require the Government to set an objective to address fuel poverty in England and to specify a date for achieving this. The Government must also publish a new strategy setting out how the new objective(s) will be realised. However, the Government’s legislation did not make clear the central role of energy efficiency in tackling fuel poverty. Instead, it leaves the objectives and strategies to ‘address’ fuel poverty to be set at a future date through a statutory instrument. Despite these flaws, the changes mark a significant opportunity to establish a new primary objective for minimum energy efficiency targets for all fuel poor households in England which are required to be met by specified dates. However, as with the aforementioned PRS regulations, it was expected the details would be released before Easter but this has been delayed without an adequate explanation.

[1] John Hills, Getting the measure of fuel poverty Final Report of the Fuel Poverty Review, March 2012.

[2] The Bill received Royal Assent on 18 December, becoming the Energy Act 2013.