Threshold calls for greater energy efficiency as part of wider improvements to standards in private rented sector
-More than half of all private rented accommodation likely to have poor energy efficiency-
Energy efficiency needs to be addressed alongside minimum standards in the private rented sector, and any National Strategy on improving energy efficiency in existing housing should deal with private rented properties in a way that doesn’t undermine supply. That’s according to the national housing charity, Threshold, speaking today (23.02.17) at the launch of the BuildUpon report.
Speaking at the event, John-Mark McCafferty, CEO of Threshold, said: “The number of people living in rented accommodation in Ireland is growing, and it is the housing tenure for more than one in five of us. In 2016, substandard accommodation was Threshold’s number one issue, with 1,432 cases nationally. Many of our clients live in substandard properties, affected by dampness and condensation, and which lack basic necessities, such as proper heating facilities.
“It is estimated that more than 55 per cent of private rented dwellings have poor energy efficiency, with a Building Energy Rating (BER) between D and G. It is our experience that the most vulnerable tenants, who are on low incomes, live in the least energy-efficient accommodation, leading to health and safety concerns and energy poverty. Therefore, the poorest are paying most to keep warm – which is unacceptable. Improving the energy efficiency of the private rented sector must be carried out as part of wider improvements in physical standards.”
John-Mark McCafferty continued: “Today’s ‘Build Upon’ report recommendations highlight the challenge posed by the private rented sector to renovation. Landlords do not see the same benefits from renovation improvements as owner occupiers. Tenants do not have the permission and often would not have the financial resources to make the renovations that they, and their families, would benefit from in terms of comfort, warmth, quality of life and overall health.
“Threshold strongly supports the report’s recommendation to set the right standards for renovation and building quality. Indeed, enforcement and inspection of standards in the private rented sector is a recurring concern for Threshold. Broadly speaking, we support the introduction of a gradual ban on leasing of residential properties that do not meet minimum energy performance requirements while ensuring supply of rental properties. However, we have concerns about using the BER rating in its current form and would favour the establishment of minimum energy efficiency standards in the rented sector, as outlined in the Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty 2016-2019, which tackle the areas of most concern for tenants such as heating and insulation.
“We welcome the recommendation to invest in deep energy renovation, and the use of financial instruments, such as green mortgages, covering buy-to-rent and Government incentives to encourage landlords to renovate their properties. However, we must ensure all grants or subsidies are linked to conditionality. Landlords should not gain financially for doing something they are already legally obliged to do under the Minimum Standards regulations for the private rented sector.
“Threshold has been advocating for the introduction of a certifications scheme or ‘NCT’ for rented housing whereby the burden of proof for compliance with minimum standards would rest with the landlord, who would be required to provide a certificate of fitness to the local authority. The integration of such a scheme would, in our view, promote greater compliance across the board.”
According to the charity, an integrated framework of physical standards improvements is a key component of an ‘NCT’ for housing, comprising of requirements in the following areas: energy efficiency, fire safety, tax obligations, and registration with the Residential Tenancy Board (RTB).
Today’s event, which took place in the Royal College of Surgeons, was organised by the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC), a member of the Europe-wide initiative ‘BuildUpon’, which focuses on energy efficiency retrofits in existing buildings, including housing.
Threshold wishes to acknowledge funding received from the Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.