Letting landlords off the hook on insulation will condemn renters to draughty homes

Government failure to regulate landlords is discouraging nearly half of private renters from applying for grants to insulate their homes, our latest research has found.

Fears of rent rises and evictions, or simply the landlord saying no, are putting off 48% of private renters from applying for grants which would improve their home’s energy efficiency and cut their bills. This rises to 53% for renters getting housing benefit or Universal Credit, who are already suffering most from fuel poverty.

Following the Prime Minister’s cancellation of plans to raise minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) two weeks ago, landlords now have no obligation to agree to any insulation works, even if they are funded by government grants. Three in ten tenants are discouraged from applying for grants because of the expectation that their landlord will refuse them. Renters should not have rely solely on their landlord to feel comfortable in their home and avoid potential risks to their health because of the government’s failure to act fairly to both landlords and renters.

We warned the government that the lack of a “stick” will undermine the “big government grants” that Rishi Sunak held up as a “carrot” for energy efficiency in his speech on Wednesday 20 September.

One in four private renter households is in fuel poverty, higher than in social housing and owner occupation. Schemes like the Energy Company Obligation provide grants to improve homes’ energy efficiency and these tend to be targeted at people at risk of fuel poverty.

In autumn 2020, the government consulted on uprating MEES on new tenancies to EPC Band C in 2025, but had not made a further announcement until the recent speech. Think tank E3G estimates that the policy would have saved private renters an average of £570 per household per year, total savings of £1.75bn.

In our recent supporter survey in July 2023, we asked 914 respondents whose home was not already energy efficient what would discourage them from applying for grants.

  • 29% said they thought their landlord would say no – there was no difference in this proportion when broken down by benefit status
  • 28% said they thought their landlord would raise the rent, which would cancel out the energy savings. This rose to 32% among benefit recipients.
  • 17% said they thought their landlord would sell the property once it was improved. This rose to 19% among benefit recipients.
  • 48% of respondents selected at least one of these responses, rising to 53% of benefit recipients.

As well as regulatory barriers, awareness was another major factor, with 38% being unaware of what grants were available and 22% being unaware of what improvements their home needed. Nearly half of respondents, 47%, selected at least one of these responses. 

Other reasons not to apply for grants included:

  • Don’t plan to live in their home for the long term – 17%
  • Not thinking they were eligible for grants – 20%

We are calling on all parties to commit to raising MEES to Band C as soon as is practical, while tightening protections for tenants around evictions and rents, to assure them that they will benefit from the resulting energy savings.

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.

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.


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