Sunak Faces Criticism over Energy Efficiency Reforms for Landlords

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has come under sharp criticism from housing campaigners, specifically Generation Rent, regarding energy efficiency regulations. They argue that the government’s lack of stringent rules for landlords deters a significant proportion of private renters from seeking grants to enhance their homes’ energy efficiency.

Generation Rent asserts that concerns about potential rent hikes, evictions, or outright landlord refusal dissuade 48% of private renters from seeking these grants, which could bolster their homes’ energy conservation and reduce their utility bills. This reluctance intensifies to 53% for tenants relying on housing benefit or Universal Credit, who are already the hardest hit by fuel poverty.

Yet, it’s worth noting that the data presented by Generation Rent is sourced from “1,021 supporters living in the private rented sector” and was gathered in June and July 2023, significantly ahead of Sunak’s amendments to energy efficiency guidelines.

Sunak recently scrapped proposals to elevate the minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES). Consequently, landlords are not compelled to approve insulation projects, regardless of whether they are sponsored by government grants.

Using this pre-amendment survey, Generation Rent highlights the absence of a strict enforcement mechanism, stating it diminishes the efficacy of the “big government grants” which Rishi Sunak praised as an energy efficiency motivator in his recent address.

Further insights from the activist group suggest that one in four private renting households experience fuel poverty, a proportion surpassing that of social housing tenants and homeowners.

In their July survey, Generation Rent probed 914 participants, presumably their “supporters”, about potential deterrents to grant applications. The findings revealed that 29% anticipated their landlord’s refusal, 28% feared rent increments negating the energy savings, and 17% suspected their landlords might sell the upgraded property.

Emphasising the need for policy changes, Generation Rent has voiced its aspirations for all political groups to expedite the elevation of MEES to Band C, while simultaneously fortifying tenant protections against evictions and excessive rents.

Dan Wilson Craw, Generation Rent’s deputy chief executive, commented, “Tenants in draughty homes currently pay hundreds of pounds more per year than they would if their home was insulated properly. The government has made funding available to lift households out of fuel poverty but it won’t reach enough people if landlords don’t have a clear responsibility to allow improvements.

He further critiqued the government’s approach, stating, “There is more the government could have done to assure tenants that they would benefit from green grants. In recognition of the tight timeline, the government could have delayed the new standards’ start date by a couple of years, but by scrapping new regulations entirely the government has made the situation worse. This cruel, disproportionate and reckless decision means renters will be living in cold homes that make them poorer and sicker for many more years to come.”