Creating an environmentally friendly modern home might not be towards the top of the list for a homeowner looking to rent out their property, but it should not be ignored. A clean and green home can be attractive to those who rent, particularly students and young families who want to save money and benefit the world at the same time.
If you find conscientious renters such as these they can be really beneficial. Keeping the electricity and gas usage low by turning off heating and electrical gadgets in empty rooms will keep bills down. Poorly circulated heat causes damp and mould, and the fewer times that a heating system is used, the longer it is likely to last. Cold homes can also cause illness, so making a home more environmentally friendly by keeping in more heat without ramping up the fuel usage is a symbiotic process where everyone wins.
All landlords are obligated to provide an Energy Performance Certificate to tenants (and also when built and sold), which shows exactly how efficient a home is. The EPC is ‘scored’ from A to G by an accredited domestic energy assessor, with A being the most efficient. In Scotland, there is an additional requirement; the EPC needs to be on display somewhere in the home.
Generally, the newer the property the better the grade will be, and from 2018 a property will have to be grade E or above before it can be let, which will force landlords to tidy up the green credentials of old, draughty homes. Those three years can soon creep up, so if your rental home needs extensive work then consider taking steps now.
In any event, new laws will be introduced in 2016 which means that any tenants living in F and G-rated homes will be able to request improvements such as more insulation, under the Green Deal (see below), so the actions needed could soon be pointed out for you. It’s believed this could affect around 400,000 homes currently on the rental market.
As a landlord you can help by installing a few easy fixes that cost little, such as draught excluders, loft and wall insulation, and more efficient lighting. According to the Energy Saving Trust, draught excluders around a home may cost around £200 but can save £25-35 a year. Double glazing is not necessarily cheap, but will save money on bills and also make the home much more viable should you ever wish to sell. More efficient showerheads are another money saver, and some water companies are giving these away for free. Finally, consider fitting solar panelling to your home – not only will this save money, it will also be an attractive and obvious benefit to any tenants enquiring.
There are also a whole host of grants, deals and offers across the internet for green improvements to homes. For example, the Government-backed Green Deal is an initiative where a landlord pays for an energy efficiency expert to visit the property, and suggest changes and improvements such as anything from insulation to heat pumps. Following the visit a Green Deal advice report will be compiled, including the EPC, an occupancy assessment detailing energy use, and an estimate on how much could be saved if improvements are made.
If you go ahead with changes a Green Deal Finance plan to pay for installation might be arranged, and the cost could be added on to the price of bills. While this might mean that tenants’ bills’ rise, the changes can only be made if the tenants agree to them, and in theory the added cost should then be counteracted by lower energy consumption – a winning deal for all concerned.