On the PainSmith helpline we have received a number of enquiries about the minimum energy efficiency standards and listed buildings. Unfortunately, the advice is not straightforward and usually requires landlords to take certain steps. Our previous post on the subject can be read here.
On 1st April this year the minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) came into force. As from that date a landlord marketing their property for rental will need to:
- have a minimum EPC rating E (which extends to existing rentals from 1st April 2020)
- have an applicable exemption from the requirement to meet the MEES standard.
The general understanding for listed buildings is that they are exempt from the requirement to meet the MEES standard. This exemption would allow landlords to continuing renting their properties however, the general understanding is not supported by the legislation which is in fact unclear.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has recently updated their guidance on MEES which does offer some clarity. The guidance states that listed properties and buildings in conservation areas will not necessarily be exempt from the requirement to meet the MEES standard. Furthermore, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) who have also issued guidance state:
“Buildings protected as part of a designated environment or because of their special architectural or historical merit are exempt from the requirements to have an energy performance certificate insofar as compliance with minimum energy performance requirements would unacceptably alter their character or appearance.”
This means that requirements such as installing double glazing, new doors and windows, external wall installation or external boiler flues would likely result in unacceptable alterations in the majority of listed buildings or buildings in a conservation area. So, properties in this situation would be exempt from the minimum E rating requirement and could in fact be rented out even if they are rated an F.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy guidance continues that it will be for the landlords to take a view as to whether any works recommended in an EPC would unacceptably alter the character or appearance of the property. Where there is doubt as to whether works would unacceptably alter the character, landlords may wish to seek the advice of their local conservation officer.
Of course, this does suggest that in order to decide whether or not alterations would unacceptably alter the character of a property landlords should consider obtaining an EPC. The EPC may well include recommendations that unacceptably alter the character of the building, but they may also include recommendations that do not such as installing LED lightbulbs, which the landlord will need to comply with.
Accordingly, in order to ensure that landlords are complying with MEES it is recommended that landlords obtain an EPC. The reason for this is twofold:
- Landlords who have mistakenly relied on the listed building exemption may face a fine and/or publication of their details on the PRS Exemptions Register.
- Landlords who have mistakenly relied on the listed building exemption and not provided the tenant with an EPC cannot rely on a Section 21 notice.
Upon receipt of the EPC if the landlord is still no clearer to determining whether the listed buildings exemption applies they should consider contacting their local conservation officer to seek further guidance.
Where a landlord obtains an EPC and is still compelled to contact their local conservation officer delays will no doubt ensue. This can be quite difficult for landlords if it means that their investment property may lie empty for a period of time. Unfortunately, unless there is further clarity or even a court judgement that parties can rely on this position will remain as unclear as it stands.