Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The BBC paints high energy bills as a renters rights issue, that landlords should be forced to improve insulation on rental houses. But the proposals will do nothing to help renters. Both the BBC and the British Government are ignoring an obvious solution which could provide immediate short term relief.
Climate change: How can renters make their homes warmer and greener?
By Becky Morton
Making the UK’s ageing housing more energy efficient will be key to the country reaching its climate targets – but campaign groups representing renters and landlords say more action is needed to drive improvements.
“At one point you could see your breath in the living room it was that cold,” says Erin Davy.
The 29-year-old was renting a two-bedroom flat in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire.
The letting agent had given an estimate of around £80 a month for the electricity bill. But when she moved in, her direct debit ended up being just under £200 a month – and over winter her monthly bill soared to as much as £400 a month.
“Privately renting now is so expensive for young people as it is. Just the rent, let alone having a massive energy bill on top of it,” she says. “It was crippling.”
The ballooning costs meant they had to be careful about when to turn the heating on and rarely used the living room because it was so difficult to heat.
After asking their landlord to take action he replaced their old storage heaters with newer models – but it didn’t help. The problem was the flat didn’t seem to stay warm at all.
As a converted outhouse, the building was badly insulated, especially the floors and walls.
But if landlords refuse to take action you can ask the local council to carry out an inspection. Councils are responsible for enforcing health and safety standards of homes and if they find serious issues with damp or heating, they can force the landlord to make improvements.
However, research by Generation Rent suggests many renters are reluctant to demand or invest in improvements because they are unsure whether they will live in a home long enough to benefit from the cheaper bills.
Others may be worried that if their landlord does pay for improvements, they may increase the rent to recoup costs or even evict them.
…Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-59223081
Saying houses should be better insulated is easy, but lot of houses in Britain can’t be insulated – there are places in Britain where the ground is so wet, any interruption of airflow in the hollow walls causes severe damp problems.
No doubt there is some extreme remediation which is possible in such cases, like jacking the house a few feet off the ground to allow totally unimpeded airflow underneath, but jacking up a really old house is not a cheap solution. There’s a real chance any serious structural disturbance to an old house will simply cause it to fall apart. You just don’t spend that kind of money or take that kind of risk with a rental house, the idea is to make money, not spend all your rental income on compliance.
The BBC article also mentions that the government is planning to increase renters rights, to make it harder for landlords to evict a tenant who gets too pushy over government regulations on property insulation, but this will do nothing for to help people who rent. Landlords who don’t want to comply will simply sell up, and the rental market will get even more impossible.
The obvious solution, the relief the Boris Johnson government could offer young people renting on a low income in the short term, is to restart Britain’s coal fleet and eliminate market distorting renewable energy mandates, to drive down electricity prices. That way young renters could stay warm regardless of the quality of the insulation in their rental property.
But BoJo is too busy fighting climate change, to take care of young, low income Britons.