How will the MEES energy efficiency standard work for heritage properties, asks CLA

With the New Year in sight, the clock has officially started ticking for letting agents and landlords to make sure they’re ready for the government’s minimum efficiency standards (MEES), which are to be introduced from 1 April 2018.

The legislation will make it an illegal practice to let residential or commercial properties with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of ‘F’ or ‘G’. The standards will initially apply to the granting of new leases and renewals of existing leases, but will expand to encompass all leasings from 1 April 2020.

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“Fundamentally flawed” standards

While the responsibilities of letting agents and landlords dealing with standard commercial properties are clearly set out, an industry body has asserted that there is a lack of transparency when it comes to listed and heritage buildings in rural areas.

As Letting Agent Today reports, the Country Landowners Association (CLA) claims that government ministers have failed to deal with key issues regarding the MEES. This is despite numerous pleas from the organisation to address what it calls “ambiguously exempt buildings from needing an EPC while at the same time requiring an EPC to demonstrate [the] installation of recommended energy efficiency measures.”

The CLA, now known as ‘the membership organisation for owners of land, property and business in rural England and Wales,’ explains that some of the necessary energy efficiency requirements would “unacceptably alter the character or appearance of the building.”

According to the body, EPCs are entirely insufficient for evaluating the true energy performance of a heritage property. It proposes that all listed building are exempt from EPCs and instead, owners should be encouraged “to achieve energy efficiency through means that are more appropriate to the building type and construction.”

The CLA outlines that following over two years of delays, new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy MEES guidelines merely suggest that heritage property owners make their own evaluation of whether or not they need an EPC, or speak to Trading Standards.

“There are hundreds of thousands of concerned owners of listed buildings who face continuing ambiguity,” CLA president, Ross Murray, commented. He suggests that the standards are flawed because of a mistake made when the government transposed the EU’s Energy Performance of Building Directive into UK law. “Rather than admitting this and committing to do something about it, the government is essentially just passing the problem on to thousands of property owners,” he accused.

Murray noted that current standards may result in “endless confusion,” “potentially costly and unnecessary bills,” and worst of all, “potential damage to good heritage buildings across the countryside as well as in towns and cities.”

“This is a national issue which needs sortings. The failure of officials and ministers to confront the originally transposition error is an abdication of responsibility,” Murray concluded.

The next steps

There is no doubt that the current situation regarding listed and heritage buildings is ambiguous, which leaves both letting agents and landlords vulnerable. For landlords, it may be possible to commission a report from a qualified surveyor to provide evidence that an assessment was carried out on the property; or, to seek advice from the relevant listed building officer.

Meanwhile, the government has published comprehensive guidance for domestic and non-domestic landlords of standard properties that will help them to prepare for the upcoming changes. Letting agents would fare well familiarising themselves with such guidance to ensure that they are prepared, then offer their support to landlords.

This is just one issue facing landlords over the next 12 months. Keep up to date with all the latest news and legislative changes at Stride.


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