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Renting cold homes: from dissatisfaction to action

Disappointment with the status quo can often instigate action. Our recent research reveals that those who consider themselves to live in mouldy, draughty homes are more likely to take steps to tackle these issues. Similarly, our very latest opinion tracker shows that public support proposed restrictions on landlords from letting out poorly-performing homes rated F and G on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Everyone, not just private renters are keen to take action. Private renters are more concerned about the energy bills hitting their mats than owner-occupiers and concerned about their ability to heat their home properly, and its general lack of comfort.

These issues have been firmly linked to health problems - so there is no wonder that renters think firmer action should be taken to force landlords to up their standards. With a government consultation ongoing about restricting landlords’ right to rent out cold properties, nearly 80 per cent of private renters back the idea. However, the proposals only enforce landlords bringing properties up to EPC rating E or above where they can get grant support (or tenants to chip in) meaning no up-front costs to them. At the Energy Saving Trust, we think there's room to go further. Our chief executive Philip Sellwood says:

"Being able to live in a home that is easy-to-heat, free of damp, mould and condensation should be a basic right. It’s not right that landlords are still allowed to rent F and G rated homes in this day and age. These homes can be a health hazard for renters and as a matter of basic consumer protection should not be on the market.”

It’s not just about putting pressure on to bring about very necessary action in the private-rented sector - there are very real incentives for landlords to invest and recoup later. Energy saving upgrades can add value to a home, as our energy efficiency expert explained to This is Money recently. But for landlords, the incentive is to offer a more attractive property portfolio than competitors, with added value for renters:

"We support government plans for regulating energy efficiency in the private rented sector but the plans will only work if there is an effective grant regime to support landlords in making improvements. And we also think landlords should be required to contribute to the cost of upgrading their properties to meet this basic standard.”

Renters themselves need to do more to open a dialogue with their landlords. Nearly seventy per cent of those polled have never asked for energy efficiency upgrades. It’s far from a given that landlords are going to be totally unsympathetic to concerns about being cold and unhappy, so perhaps it’s a case of more ask, more get. And if you don’t get the response you’re looking for, there is further recourse at local council level under environmental health legislation. While the wheels of bureaucracy turn, you can always consult our website for the latest advice on how to save energy at home.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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Most often the people suffering the most; don't know about offers, have no internet and/or the landlord does not want to know.