The new report by the Association of Decentralised Energy’s (ADE) ACE Research warns that even under existing regulations, let alone more stringent ones, improvements in energy efficiency regulations are unenforceable unless councils are given more funding and council officers receive better training.
ACE Research surveyed officers from the local authorities to establish the extent to which they understand and are able to enforce the regulations on private landlords.
The survey suggests one-in-five councils carry out only responsive enforcement, meaning they only inspect properties when they receive complaints about damp, mould or other conditions.
The researchers said that while many council officers are doing their best under the constraints of tight budgets, lack of data and short staffing, much more funding is needed. Adequate funding for local authorities would enable them to identify properties that are illegally cold and leaky, and work with landlords to bring them up to improved standards.
Steph Hacker, Senior Researcher at ACE Research and one of the project authors, commented:
“Our findings indicate that local authorities face significant challenges in effectively enforcing MEES regulations and promoting energy efficiency. The lack of resources and low penalties have already badly hindered progress in some areas.
“It is crucial for the government to provide greater support and collaboration to address these barriers and drive meaningful change for renters – energy efficiency is a vital part of driving down bills, making sure that homes are warm and comfortable, and reducing emissions from our building stock to tackle climate change.”
Matt Copeland, Head of Policy at fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA), added:
“Private renters have struggled most through the energy crisis, spending £2 billion more a year as a whole. Progress needs to be made, both to enforce existing standards, but also to tighten them so that renters can live in warmer, cheaper-to-heat homes.
“The UK Government has rowed back on its commitments in this area, but action must be taken to ensure that private landlords upgrade their properties. If they don't, we fear that renters could remain exposed to the cold at home for years to come.”
Alastair Mumford, Programme Director at the MCS Foundation, which funded the research, said:
“The barriers faced by local authorities in enforcing energy efficiency standards mean renters are living in homes that are cold, leaky, and unacceptably expensive to heat.
“For renters who are unlucky enough to live in an area where the council does not undertake enforcement at all, they have no recourse to ensure that their home meets legal standards.
“Providing councils with the resources they need to enforce these standards is not only essential to prevent the worst cases of damp and mould, it will also mean greater energy security, lower bills and greener housing.”