The Green Deal gets some Teeth

The announcement by Chris Huhne in Parliament yesterday in the second reading of the Energy Bill 2010 produced some interesting and valuable changes that ought to make anyone involved in housing asset management sit up and take note.

The two most important additions were:

From 2016, any tenant or their representatives asking for their landlord’s consent to make reasonable energy efficiency improvements cannot be refused.

And from 2018 the rental of the very worst performing properties – those rated F&G – will be banned through a minimum energy efficiency standard.

There is nothing particularly surprising about either of these measures other than the fact that the GG,E actually has the courage to give the Green Deal some certainty.

This measure, at worst, will mean that the 700,000 or so F and G rated properties are upgraded by 2018, which means a workload of about 100,000 properties per annum between 2012 and 2018. This is a big step forward and it introduces a certainty into the market that simply wasn’t there before that statement was made. It is unclear to me whether the stipulations apply to social landlords or not, but if they apply in the private sector it would be very strange if they did not apply in the public sector too.

If tenants can demand reasonable measures to be carried out in the private sector, then why not in the public sector? The key here is the word ‘reasonable’. Measure that can be done simply and cheaply to a single unit without affecting the neighbours, or as part of the normal maintenance routine, will be reasonable, other measures will not.

Whatever the outcome, these simple amendments mean that landlords who have been sitting on the fence will have to sit up and take not, the time has come when you have to start to make a plan. It doesn’t have to be a very detailed plan, any plan is better than none, but landlords will need to show to residents of all their properties when they plan to carry out the Green Deal works, to protect them against ‘unreasonable’ requests. They will have to show to Government (DECC) when they plan to deal with their worst performing properties.

Part of the plan should be a simple question that needs to be asked at the beginning of any discussion on upgrading the poorest performing stock. The question is:

Is it worth it?

By that I mean, will this home be a better home after the works are done? Would it be better to demolish these particular properties and start again. In my experience the F and G properties are the worst built buildings, often in the wrong place, in poorly performing estates, unwanted and unloved. Do we really think that it makes sense to spend our hard-earned cash refurbishing such places? I am all in favour of emission reductions, but we may be better advised in some cases to cut our losses and simply demolish and rebuild.

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