From 2025, the UK government is set to bring in a regulatory requirement that newly let rental properties must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of C or higher, but Angus Stewart, CEO of Property Master, has warned that more must be done to bring landlords on board.
Although digital-led buy-to-let (BTL) broker Property Master includes EPCs as one of the many factors in its mortgage search tool, Stewart said he “has some concerns about how EPCs are calculated at the moment.”
As these measurements are based primarily on cost efficiency, this might be drawing a false equivalency which misses out important ‘green’ practices.
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As recently as February 01, Countrywide Surveying Services found that 62% of residential property professionals did not believe that EPCs were the most suitable method to reduce emissions in the UK’s housing stock.
However, 38% said they were the most suitable method currently available, and 92% called for urgent upskilling for the sector in this area.
Stewart said: “You could actually drive inappropriate behaviour with the current EPC mechanism.
“If you really want to drive a green agenda, we need to look at EPCs and really review how they’re calculated, and with that whether they are driving the right behaviour, across residential owners and landlords.”
Stewart added that a focus on EPCs was not the only way in which the government’s current focus is blinkered.
Namely, the focus should be on working with landlords, not against them.
Stewart said: “I would hope that every landlord is looking at how they can make their properties more energy efficient, how they can help in terms of this drive – insulating them properly, reducing the additional expenditure on energy which in turn reduces carbon.
“I would like to see incentives to help landlords do that.
“Landlords are often forgotten, cut out of the schemes, or not supported as part of the change.”
Stewart went on to explain that there appears to be a – largely incorrect – belief that landlords are wealthy individuals, a resource that can be tapped into when needed.
Instead, his experience – and Property Master’s data – have shown that most have one or two properties and are not hugely wealthy, and should be viewed in the same light as owner-occupiers.
The majority of green mortgages available on the market at the moment, for both residential and BTL borrowers, incentivise the purchase of properties with a higher EPC rating.
However, with Shawbrook Bank finding that 36% of landlords had properties built pre-1940, there is clearly a need to address the issue of retrofitting.
If landlords are to be expected to update their BTL properties for new tenancies by 2025, and existing tenancies by 2028, they need to start the process now.
Material and labour shortages, the complexity of upgrading older housing stock, and the simple fact that many landlords do not simply have a stock of wealth to fall back on, means that this stick should be met with a carrot in order to help landlords make the necessary changes.
Rather than taking an adversarial approach and penalising landlords, which might cause many to simply leave the market, Stewart explained that landlords should be treated as part of the solution.
“They need the same level of assistance to make these migrations as the residential owner,” Stewart added. “It’s dangerous to differentiate.”
He concluded: “At the top end there might be large companies with huge numbers of units, and you might want to treat them slightly differently, but for the standard BTL customer – we need to see them as human.”