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‘Huge backlog’ of home energy improvements in north Essex to be unplugged

09 Sep ‘Huge backlog’ of home energy improvements in north Essex to be unplugged

Work to tackle hundreds of cold and draughty homes and businesses in north-east Essex amid tougher new regulations to help reduce energy bills is being carried out by Colchester firm Ingleton Wood after lockdown caused a “huge backlog”.

Private landlords have been banned from starting new leases or renewals for properties with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating below band E since April 2018 under the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) to help households cut energy bills.

This was expanded to cover all existing tenancies in April under tightened regulations. Landlords must carry out upgrade works to improve the EPC rating to band E or face fines of up to £5,000. They can claim an exemption if costs to make improvements exceed £3,500.

The same MEES regulations apply for commercial buildings, such as offices, hotels and retail stores, but will not extend to existing leases until April 2023. MEES regulations do not apply to social landlords such as housing associations.

Rob Diamond, a sustainability expert at Ingleton Wood, a property and construction consultancy which carries out energy efficiency services for residential and commercial properties, said the Covid-19 crisis has created a “huge backlog” of work to improve hundreds of sub-standard local properties.

He said: “It’s been unlawful for almost the entire pandemic for landlords to rent any property with the lowest EPC ratings of F or G, so this is a golden chance to fire up the green economy whilst creating new jobs as we recover from the crisis – and we’re working with landlords to play our collective vital role and support those who need it.

“Action landlords can take right now to help those facing huge energy bills in such difficult circumstances – including owners of commercial buildings – ranges from installing new double glazed windows or adding new loft insulation, to upgrading to LED lighting.

“We’re also reminding landlords that they’ll have a nice green building which will help those in fuel poverty to stay warm this winter, whilst increasing their property’s value. It’s a win-win situation for everyone concerned to respond to these new energy efficiency regulations.”

It is estimated that around 6% of privately rented properties and 18% of commercial buildings have the lowest EPC ratings of F or G nationally.

Mr Diamond added: “It was frustrating that we weren’t able to help during the peak of the lockdown but the good news is that we’re now able to safely carry out this incredibly important energy efficiency upgrade work, whilst following social distancing and hygiene measures, in a large number of residential and commercial properties in north-east Essex.

“We’ve also noticed a rapid rise in commercial properties becoming empty in Essex and expect this to continue as some businesses unfortunately simply won’t make it through the pandemic or will join the working from home revolution and vacate long-standing offices.”