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PM Sunak accused of ‘backtracking’ and ‘betraying landlords’ as EPC rules are ditched

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek
Posted:
Updated:
21/09/2023

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed that homeowners and landlords will no longer need to improve the energy efficiency of their homes to a minimum standard.

Sunak brought forward his speech on the Government’s net zero plan after the BBC revealed that he was planning to water down policies. The Prime Minister said the current plans meant homeowners would need to make expensive changes in just two years and people renting would be impacted by the costs through rental rises. 

It was initially proposed that landlords should improve the EPC rating of privately rented homes to a minimum of C by 2028, with new tenancies expected to meet a shorter deadline of 2025. No policy was suggested for owner occupiers, but it was expected that a similar requirement would be introduced.

He said while the Government would continue to subsidise people who want to make their homes more efficient, it would “never force any household to do it”.  Sunak said the Government would also give people “far more time” to make the transition to heat pumps. 

He said, without an extension, support would collapse as the technology was still new and too expensive. 

Sunak said the Government would “never force anyone” to rip out their boilers to replace them with heat pumps until they were already preparing a replacement. The requirement to do so will only apply from 2035. 

He said for people who would have the hardest time making the transition, an exemption would be introduced “so that they will never have to switch at all”. 

He said instead of banning boilers before people can afford it, Sunak said they will be supported by increasing the Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant by 50% to £7,500. 

Sunak said improvements to homes would result in “significant costs” on working people and suggested that it may not be necessary to impose these rules to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions as this was already reducing. He said the UK’s share of global emissions was less than one per cent so it was not fair to ask people to “sacrifice more than others”.  

‘Backtracking won’t help and ‘landlords betrayed’

Experts in the housing market have reacted angrily to the Government’s U-turn, noting that Sunak’s ‘backtracking’ will only kick the issue of energy inefficient homes further down the road and highlighting the impact of landlords and the private rented sector.

Ben Thompson, deputy CEO at Mortgage Advice Bureau said: “The reality is that the UK will still need to upgrade its leaky housing stock. With energy bills in the spotlight, EPC ratings are climbing up prospective buyers’ wish lists, and if the housing market is to meet net zero targets, properties need to be retrofitted. The UK has some of the oldest and least efficient homes in Europe, and backtracking won’t help solve the overall problem – it simply serves as kicking the can down the road.“

Meanwhile Jonathan Daines, founder and CEO, lettingaproperty.com said: “While welcome news for some, the Government’s U-turn on introducing new energy efficiency regulations on homes is frustrating for our landlord clients, many of whom have already taken steps to ‘do the right thing’ in preparation for change. With the planned EPC changes looming, many landlords in our community proactively improved the energy efficiency of their properties. They incurred significant costs and practical hassles, to make energy efficiency upgrades in line with proposed EPC minimums.

“Amid the chaos, we mustn’t lose site of the positive purpose behind making energy efficiency improvements and creating greener homes to support the wider commitment to ‘net zero’. It is imperative however that policymakers provide clarity and consistency in their approach to rental property regulations. The Government’s wavering stance has ultimately betrayed landlords and tenants, while negatively impacting businesses who rely on a stable and thriving rental market.”