The response to the climate crisis is growing daily and with it a demand for action and tougher policy measures.
On an individual basis there is still a great deal we can do; 40% of the UK’s emissions come from households, according to the Committee on Climate Change.
Within the private rental sector, there are penalties for failing to hit energy efficiency targets. From 1 April 2020 all rental properties will need to have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and landlords face a civil penalty of up to £4,000 for breaching these regulations.
Aside from these baseline regulations, adding insulation, installing smart technology and water meters is an outlay that doesn’t seem to offer much on a landlord’s investment, and landlords will usually only invest in making their buy-to-let property more sustainable as they believe it is the right thing to do.
But beyond basic compliance, making your property more eco-friendly could benefit your purse as well as the planet.
What can you do to improve the eco-footprint of your property and what benefits can you expect for your outlay?
1. Attract and retain better tenants
This is rather subjective, but there is an argument that renters looking specifically for an eco-friendly home will be more invested in their rented home and be good long-term tenants.
A better insulated, warmer, more comfortable and easier to run home is a far easier sell than a draughty, fuel-sapping property and could help you avoid void periods. Adding smart technology will give you the edge over similar properties, potentially making easier to attract tenants and maybe even boosting the property’s rental value.
Smart technology uses devices to control tasks such as heating, appliances and lighting, and ranges from the basic to the super smart. Do your research so you know what gadgets would benefit prospective tenants, offset by the cost of the investment. Smart thermostats, which allow heating to be controlled remotely with an app, and smart lighting are probably the most appealing.
Smart lighting gives extra security assurance and can be used if a tenant is away or during any void periods to give the illusion the property is occupied.
2. Be ahead of the curve
With household emissions so high, homes play an important role in the government’s 2030 emissions target. As such, it is likely that legislation around households’ carbon footprint is only going to get tougher, so it could pay to be ahead of the game.
For example, every home in the UK will be offered a smart meter by 2024. Smart meters give you a better understanding of your energy consumption by seeing it in real time and means you no longer have to estimate monthly bills. If a tenant is the account holder for energy bills, they are entitled to ask for a smart meter without a landlord’s permission. But Ofgem recommends they should inform their landlord before they get one, a clause you can add to the tenancy agreement to avoid any confusion. However, if you are the account holder and pay the bills the decision lies with you.
3. Lower running costs
As with many parts of our lives cutting household emissions has the added benefit of reducing running costs. Unless you pay the bills yourself, reducing energy bills isn’t an obvious benefit a landlord, but again it is a selling point that could help your property stand out and potentially mean you could charge a higher rent.
It’s worth emphasising the benefits of living in an eco-friendly home. Better insulation, smarter lighting and appliances and smart heating systems could see the average household reduce its emissions by 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per year and could also save the average gas heated home £184 per year.