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Campaign win brings warmer homes for private tenants

Friends of the Earth's campaign 7 years ago leads to new energy saving rules coming into force this April.
  Published:  27 Mar 2018    |      3 minute read

"Going to bed wearing five layers and a woolly hat is certainly not fun. The heating bill in my current shared house came to £750 for one month over Christmas, and we simply can't afford to heat the house for the coming month as a consequence."

Anna from London was one of hundreds of respondents to one of Friends of the Earth's biggest campaigns in 2011, which called for improved energy efficiency in the UK's private rental market.

Our work yielded fruit. As of 1 April 2018 new legislation means it is now illegal to let out properties which do not meet a minimum energy efficiency standard.

This will mean cheaper energy bills for tenants. And in 2011 it was estimated the measures could save 2 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year. Better for people and the climate.

We rented a flat with small, very inefficient electric heaters in the bedrooms and living room but no heating at all in the kitchen or bathroom. The bathroom had no window or ventilation so in the colder months the walls grew black with mould Sarah from Blackpool, respondent to original campaign

In collaboration with major housing charities and consumer groups, Friends of the Earth's warm homes campaign led the way in building momentum for a legal energy efficiency standard.

Thousands of people signed a letter to then Energy Secretary Chris Huhne MP asking him to read testimonies from people living in cold homes across the country – these stories were read out by MPs in parliament and 180 MPs went on to support an Early Day Motion.

New rules on energy savings

From the start of April this year, all properties in England and Wales given the lowest F/G rating on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) must be upgraded to meet the standards of the E band before new tenancies can be agreed.

Up to 280,000 private rented properties currently are F or G rated, paying on average £600 a year more in energy bills than properties rated E. This means almost half of the households in these coldest rented homes are living in fuel poverty.

Almost a decade after we started our campaign, many tenants can look forward to homes which are warmer, cheaper to heat and contribute less to climate change.

Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth campaigner

Friends of the Earth was instrumental in suggesting the use of the existing EPC system as a guide to the minimum level of energy efficiency. We also pulled together a broad coalition to demand a new law.

Chris Huhne eventually agreed to include the new provisions in the Bill, which means that from 1 April landlords could be hit with a £5,000 fine if they fail to comply.

I live in rented accommodation and my flat has single glazing and is poorly insulated. Sometimes the temperature has gone as low as 3 degrees Celsius Yvonne from Bath, respondent to the original campaign

Living in a cold home can increase children's and young people’s risk of developing certain illnesses. Much of the UK's housing stock in the private rented sector lacks basic measures such as cavity wall or loft insulation. It’s a national disgrace that this unnecessary situation has been allowed to continue for so long.

Now landlords with dangerously cold homes are on notice to bring their properties up to scratch and end the energy waste that contributes to climate change.

illustration demonstrating the savings possible from loft insulation

Let's finish the job

"We still have to wait another year for a major loophole in the legislation to be closed," says Dave Timms. "Currently landlords will be exempt from the law if they have to spend any of their own money improving the energy efficiency of their property. We're campaigning for this to change - and the government has just finished consulting on the maximum sum landlords can be expected to spend."

Friends of the Earth couldn't have achieved this success without our supporters and your donations. Please help us continue our vital campaigning including on energy efficiency and climate change. There are several ways to donate. Thank you.

illustration demonstrating the savings possible from cavity insulation

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