Industry body Energy UK says government plans to improve energy efficiency in the private rented sector do not go far enough.
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) scheme, aimed at improving properties for vulnerable tenants in cold homes and to cut carbon emissions, will come into effect in April.
But energy suppliers could end up under fire when the new regulations come in as the changes are not expected to help as many living in fuel poverty save on their bills as first hoped.
A cut, from £5,000 to £2,500, in the capped amount landlords must spend on upgrading their properties with an energy performance rating of band F and G will see less homes hitting the new standard set at band E.
Figures from the 2014 English Housing Survey say 280,000 private rented properties currently fall below that mark. But Energy UK said even BEIS’ own figures show that under the proposed £2,500 cost cap 70 per cent of F and G-rated properties will not reach it. Meanwhile fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) says fuel-poor tenants in band F and G properties face excess energy charges of up to £1,160 per year.
Chief executive of Energy UK, Lawrence Slade, said: “We strongly believe that the private rented sector has an important role to play in driving the uptake of energy efficiency and whilst we welcome the government consulting on tightening these regulations, the proposals do not go far enough.”
The £2,500 cap will bring “little improvement for the draughtiest properties whose tenants can often least afford to waste money heating their home,” Energy UK said.
It wants BEIS to commit to a higher cost cap that will see greater improvement for more households, as well as providing long-term policy certainty over a trajectory for reaching band C by 2035.
“We have long called for energy efficiency to be a national infrastructure priority as something that will both deliver big reductions in energy bills for consumers and reduce emissions.
“Energy suppliers have been at the forefront of delivering these measures through supplier obligations for over two decades with significant improvements to the UK housing stock delivered as a result.
“Supplier obligations are however financially regressive and Energy UK believes that the fairest way of funding energy efficiency is through general taxation.”
Whilst welcoming BEIS’ proposals for new minimum standards, NEA estimates 50,000 children will still be left “living in the deepest fuel poverty”.
Adam Scorer, chief executive of NEA, which puts the cap cost drop down to lobbying by landlords groups, said “the bitter reality is that we are fast approaching half a million children living in rented properties with freezing conditions, at risk of serious ill-health and with landlords who show no inclination to make their homes fit for human habitation”.
He added: “Government has the chance to take many thousands of children out of the worst impacts of fuel poverty. If it does not, then it will be the most vulnerable children in our communities who will continue to pay the price. Frankly, that is simply unacceptable.”
Recent impacts on the funding landscape for landlords include the scrapping of the Green Deal and the government’s remaining ECO scheme not being enough to bring the outstanding stock of private rented homes up to scratch.