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In a controversial move by the Prime Minister, following months of concern from landlords about the prospect of expensive energy efficiency upgrades to properties, Rishi Sunak has scrapped plans to enforce minimum Energy Performance Certificate ratings.
Speaking to parliament on a range of green policies, on 20th September, Sunak announced a number of changes that backtracked on previous plans.
Why the change?
Sunak reasoned that the decision had been made because he felt the costs involved were too much at a time when many people are facing financial difficulties.
When speaking about the demands of green initiatives on the private rental sector in August this year, Housing Secretary, Michael Gove said that the government had been expecting ‘too much, too quickly’ from landlords. Sunak’s message followed in a similar theme.
In his speech today, the Prime Minister said:
under current plans, some property owners would’ve been forced to make expensive upgrades in just two years’ time.
"For a semi-detached house in Salisbury, you could be looking at a bill of £8,000.
"And even if you’re only renting, you’ll more than likely see some of that passed on in higher rents.
"That’s just wrong.
"So those plans will be scrapped, and while we will continue to subsidise energy efficiency - we’ll never force any household to do it.
Referencing the costs involved in previous plans, he said:
it cannot be right for Westminster to impose such significant costs on working people especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet and to interfere so much in people’s way of life without a properly informed national debate.
And went on to add:
We’re now going to have a better, more honest debate about how we get there, a more pragmatic, proportionate and realistic approach, that eases the burdens on families.
For those who had not yet made changes to their properties, there will undoubtedly be a huge sigh of relief. The EPC upgrades were generally viewed within the community as yet another financial burden on landlords, already faced with rising mortgage costs and the threat of further regulation.
The prospect of a minimum EPC rating has to date been taken very seriously within the mortgage industry too, with a wide range of lenders bringing out subsidised ‘green’ buy to let mortgage interest rates for rental properties with an EPC rating of A-C.
But, many landlords who had taken the impending regulation on board and paid out for costly upgrades, there can only be a sense of significant frustration.
Life for a landlord has meant added financial pressures, and some who were struggling have left the industry. For those remaining who dutifully invested in upgrades this news will likely be a blow.
Whilst of course it is important to improve energy efficiency in all the UK’s homes, the pressure to do it at this time was far from ideal.
You can read the full transcript of Rishi Sunak’s “Speech on Net Zero” here.