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Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards: what this means in practice

Category:

The Built Environment

Tags:

MEES, Energy efficiency

Peter Williams from Shoosmiths LLP, speaking at Ecobuild 2017, explained that current progress towards reaching our carbon budget is stalling and on current progress the government will struggle to fulfil its legally binding target by 2020.  By the next budget, the UK needs to reach a carbon emission figure 34% lower than 1990 which equates to a reduction of six tonnes of greenhouse gases per person. Implementation of MEES is a government initiative to strengthen current energy efficiency strategies within the built environment.  Currently 47% of the UK’s carbon emissions are credited to the built environment, of which 20% is estimated to come from commercial properties with a disproportionate share emanating from those with EPC’s in band ‘F’ or ‘G’. The new MEES regulations come into force on April 1st 2018. They apply to both, domestic and commercial new and renewal lettings.  Since 1st of October 2008 Landlords have been required to possess a valid EPC certificate for any property in their portfolio for new or potential tenants. However, this requirement has not been stringently enforced and there is no central database of certification.  Currently a sub-standard commercial rental property can be let with only the possibility of a £4,000 non-compliance fine.  Landlords are also not legally obliged to carry out the work stipulated in their EPC report.  This system has done little to improve the quality of building stock within the commercial rental sector as unscrupulous owners are still able to earn money from leasing polluting, inefficient buildings whilst risking only a relatively paltry fine. Under the new MEES regulations commercial property owners with buildings that have ratings EPC’s of ‘F’ or ‘G’, will be legally obliged to carry out specified energy efficiency measures. It is only properties which have been upgraded to an ‘E’ minimum standard or above which can be put onto the rental market.  Properties rated ‘F’ and ‘G’ are referred to as ‘sub-standard’ and can only be let in special (very specific) circumstances.  Importantly, the new legislation imposes far steeper fines of 20% of the value of the property up to a maximum of £150,000. With the introduction of a mandatory, centralised, public database of all EPCs, commercial landlords can no longer remain undetected.  EPC ratings will be publicly available for anyone to access.  This centralised system will also make it easy for local authorities to cross reference new tenancy agreements with the required EPC certificate. The illegality of renting out substandard properties, together with the threat of a substantial fine, will, it is hoped be instrumental in removing ‘F’ and ‘G’ rated properties from the rental sector. From April 2018 onwards, property owners will no longer be able to shift the cost of their sub-standard properties onto both their tenants and the environment.    Ecology campaigners are hailing this new piece of built environment legislation as potentially the most significant in a generation.