Row grows over 'Green Deal' work foisted on landlords

Landlords are set to be caught by a legal requirement forcing them to upgrade properties, involving them in unforeseen expense and delays.

A proposed new requirement for ‘consequential improvements’ means that if they want to replace broken boilers in their rental properties, they will be forced by law to install other energy-efficient measures.

The proposed ‘consequential improvements’ mean that one project could not be undertaken without the landlord having to commit to other work elsewhere in the property.

For example, anyone wanting to add an extension or convert a loft might have to upgrade existing windows in other parts of the property to double glazing, whilst installing a condensing boiler would typically mean a commitment to installing new insulation in walls and loft.

All consequential improvements would have to be done to full Building Regulations standards, although it is not clear whether in an emergency – for example, replacing a boiler – consequential works would have to be done at the same or could be done later.

If it is decided that consequential work must be done at the same time, it could mean lengthy delays and disruption for tenants left without hot water or heating, as consents are sought and different tradesmen organised.

Even the Federation of Master Builders is against the idea. Brian Berry, its chief executive, warned that the plans to force property owners to spend thousands on ‘green’ improvements will be practical, unpopular and counterproductive.

Under Chapter 4 of a consultation on Building Regulations, the Government is proposing to extend the requirements for ‘consequential improvements’.

This is the term that would trigger a requirement for extra energy efficiency works in a building where other ‘controlled work’ is already taking place.

The consultation says: “The reason for proposing these changes now is to recognise the urgency of reducing emissions from the existing building stock, and, in a time of rising energy prices, to make homes and non-domestic buildings easier and cheaper to heat. It would also take advantage of a new market mechanism which has the potential to remove some of the existing barriers to action – the Green Deal.”

The paper goes on to say that the objective is to ‘use the opportunity’ to get the overall energy performance of the building improved whilst other works are being carried out.

The Government plans to phrase in the requirement for ‘consequential improvements’ from April 2014.

The consultation on ‘consequential improvements’ closed at the end of March, and the outcome will not be known for some months.

The private rented sector already faces the challenges being posed by new-look EPCs, introduced last week, and the Green Deal, which is due to be implemented this autumn. In 2018, rental properties with the two lowest EPC scores are due to be banned from the market, meaning that landlords must have improved them by then.