New energy efficiency legislation springs into action for farmers and rural landlords from April 1 2018.
From this date, it will be illegal for rental property to be let to new tenants if the Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) provides a rating lower than E. This presents various issues within the rural community, and many are unsure and anxious about how it may critically affect properties, agricultural buildings and farm estates.
One of the issues is the lack of clarity with regards to the rules and regulations. Many farmers own buildings while many other farmers live in rented, on-site accommodation or entire farm estate rentals. Whilst domestic landlords have a more straightforward list of legislation to now follow, the guidance for farmers and farm owners presents some lack of clarity over energy efficiency standards and renewing any EPCs.
There is clarity over domestic use: if a person is renting a home to a new tenant or if they renew a contract with an existing client, then yes, an EPC above an E will be legally required by April 2018.
After speaking to a number of providers in the market regarding the upcoming changes it was clear that a handful, such as EPC For You, are encouraging farmers to seek out advice before making any major changes.
Seeking professional support is wise for those in more complex situations, such as farming, for example when considering mixed-use property. What about when there are different parts of buildings or agricultural estates?
The new government laws state that there is an exemption for ‘non-residential agricultural buildings which are in use…’ It is at the discretion of a local council to decide whether these agricultural buildings become exempt or not, which presents uncertainty and a confusing reliance on what a local council may deem as ‘exempt.’
A further grey area for farmers who live in an entirely rented estate is uncertainty over which buildings might classify as residential. In a worst case scenario, an entire estate could be deemed ‘illegal’ from April onwards, leaving the landlords of the farm to temporarily evict or relocate live-in farm staff. Even if only temporary, (whilst work was completed to the home,) being relocated away from house and livelihood could be hugely detrimental to a farm manager, through no fault of their own.
Of course, the obvious answer would be to ensure that the property owner does not let this happen and it is their responsibility. If every landlord checks and ensures that they get to grips with the legislation, and then makes those important practical updates to their properties and EPCs before the deadline then, in theory, there shouldn’t be much of a problem.
However, there are some sticking points. Short time frames and the cost of changes are something those in the farming community are very concerned about. Not to mention, April 1 falls at a time of year when many farmers are in their peak season. There is a fear of the urgency in which improvements could be demanded.
The government consultation closes just two weeks before the rules strike into action and such a short timescale might throw farming landlords into a state of confusion and chaos. Estate owners and farms often rent out older properties, and older properties are much more likely to have lower EPC ratings.
Sourcing the money for potentially large upgrades and energy renovations within farm property could potentially be a huge job and expensive.
In some ways, though, further confusion comes in relation to financial support for at-risk properties. Whilst some information has revealed possible funding, if landlords prove they cannot afford the upfront costs to cover the installation, other sources suggest a cut off date for this funding ended in October 2017. Again, it is at the discretion of a local council as to whether money could be released.
Lastly, any farmers who invest and rent out property to the domestic market, might find their lettings removed from the rental market overnight- simply because they may not have met the deadline.
It is vitally important that anybody letting out property, agriculturally or for private use, scrubs up on the changes as soon as possible and gauges a good position on where they stand. Updating EPCs will be of high importance - and a legality for lettings. Do get in touch with a professional company, such as epcforyou.co.uk, where support and completion of these Energy Performance Certificates are available efficiently.