For the last couple of years, I have been renting out the house I used to live in before I moved in with my wife. It’s an old Victorian terrace and is due some renovations.
The property gets very cold, so ahead of the winter I’d like to get the single-glazed windows changed to double-glazed ones, replace the carpets and add some insulation in the floors and roof. I might also get the gas boiler replaced if my budget allows.
As well as improving the property’s value, it seems as if more government rules around energy efficiency are on the horizon and I think this could help improve its EPC rating.
Our reader says the work will probably take a few weeks, and in that time there will be periods when the property is uninhabitable.
I know the tenants in the property want to stay for the long term, so there is little chance of the property becoming empty unless I ask them to leave at their next contract break, which I don’t really want to do as they are nice people and look after the property well.
The work will probably take a few weeks, and in that time there will be periods when the property is uninhabitable.
What are my options? Can I ask them to leave temporarily, and should I provide alternative accommodation? I obviously wouldn’t charge them any rent, and while I don’t have another property to offer them I would be happy to pay something towards a temporary rental or B&B by way of apology. Via email.
Ed Magnus of This is Money replies: Landlords can often get a bad rap for not looking after their rental properties or tenants, but it’s often a few bad eggs rather than the industry as a whole.
Boosting energy efficiency will improve the living conditions but also potentially reduce heating bills at a time when costs are spiraling.
Given what is planned, this will come at great personal cost, however, as you say, it may increase the property’s value and pre-empt government rules being muted around EPC ratings.
No magic money tree: Retrofitting an older property can be a costly and lengthy process
The EPC is a rating scheme which bands properties between A and G, with an A rating being the most energy efficient and G the least efficient.
At present, all rental properties in England and Wales need to have an EPC of at least E in order to be let, unless they are exempt.
However, in line with its ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Government is considering upping this requirement to a C rating for all new tenancies from 31 December 2025, and for all existing tenancies from 31 December 2028.
The EPC changes form part of the Minimum Energy Performance of Buildings Bill currently making its way through parliament.
It’s worth noting the bill still has a long way to go before becoming law and could either be amended or rejected, so making a decision to improve a property based on that alone would be premature.
It’s also not inconceivable that the government might provide extra support and funding were it to become law.
In terms of energy improvements boosting the property’s value, you may be correct. Energy efficiency appears to be of increasing importance to buyers.
A recent survey by Savills found that 71 per cent of buyers now consider EPC ratings to be important in their decision making, and 59 per cent are willing to pay more for a home which primarily uses renewable energy.
However, our reader does raise a key issue. How to go about retrofitting a property when tenants are living inside?
The upheaval may be too much for some to bear, particularly for older renters, whilst the loss of rental income and potential costs in providing temporary accommodation could make it financially unviable for some landlords.
To help, we spoke to Richard Davies, head of Lettings at Chestertons, James Wood, policy manager for the National Residential Landlords Association and Adam Male, chief revenue officer at online lettings platform, Mashroom.
What can the landlord do in this situation?
James Wood replies: For landlords in the situation, ultimately it is a case of negotiating the best way forward with the tenant as it’s a property improvement.
The landlord would not have any legal right to reclaim the property temporarily within the period of a tenancy agreement to undertake the work.
Given this, if they are keen to undertake the work in such circumstances, they would need to negotiate with the tenant on temporary accommodation and likely pay for wherever they end up staying during the time.
The tenant would be entirely within their rights to refuse though and in those cases the landlord would have to wait until the property is vacant to perform the work at the end of a tenancy agreement.
How to approach the tenants?
Richard Davies replies: I’m sure that your tenants will be delighted regarding the proposed works to improve the condition and energy efficiency of the property.
They will hopefully be flexible on how and when the works will be carried out and my advice would be to meet with them to discuss their initial thoughts.
It’s important for landlords to remember that whilst it is there property, it is their tenants home.
You can also involve them in the planning of the works – for example, they may be happy to remain in the property when the windows and flooring are being replaced – not charging them rent will obviously appeal to them and be seen as compensation for such disruption.
Any major works will need to be timed more carefully. Replacing the boiler may mean no hot water for a period of time – although it may be less than 24hrs.
This could be timed when the tenants are away or on holiday. Given the works which you are planning, I hope that you would not need to provide the tenants with short-term alternative accommodation and you can work together in executing all the planned improvements.
What if the tenants are less enthusiastic about the changes?
Adam Male replies: In this situation, to avoid ending up in hot water, you need to be thinking about clarity, communication and compensation.
It’s best to sit down with your tenants and explain your exact plans, you’ll need them to buy-in and support you in order to make these renovations.
Without their buy-in there are always the courts but that kills your relationship and legal costs quickly mount up as well as the mental toll, and you’ll probably lose.
Mutual agreement: The upheaval in temporarily moving out of a property may be too much for some to bear, particularly for older renters.
You need to give the tenants adequate notice and a clear schedule of works, it’s an idea to give a worst-case scenario. If you think it’s going to take a month, what happens if it overruns by another month?
Compensation in terms of alternative accommodation, potentially storing possessions and budgeting for harm to their possessions.
If you’re providing compensation and alternative accommodation it may not be necessary to fully provide a rent-free period.
Again, it all comes down to communication, having the conversation with your tenant and then setting out expectations in writing with a few worst-case scenarios that are planned for.
If the tenant says no, unfortunately the best route is to wait until the tenancy ends or issue a Section 21 notice to end the tenancy, however Section 21 will soon be a thing of the past.’
How much will the eco improvements cost our reader?
Ed Magnus of This is Money replies: You say you want to upgrade to double-glazed windows, replace the carpets and add some insulation in the floors and roof.
Upgrading from single to double glazing can be expensive, particularly if replacing sash windows, commonly found in Victorian properties.
For wood sash windows the double glazing cost is about £750 to £1,500 per window, according to the tradesman directory, Checkatrade.
Opting for uPVC casement and sash windows could be a cheaper solution.
For example, the average double glazing cost for new uPVC casement window is £360 per window, according to Checkatrade – almost half the cost of using wood or aluminum.
Shattering cost: For an average three-bedroom home, the cost of installing double glazed UPVC windows may vary from around £2,500 to over £6,000 according to MyBuilder.
Replacing carpets on top of loft and floor insulation will also be costly and potentially disruptive.
The average cost to replace carpet is £31.50 per square metre plus the average fitting cost of £105, according to Checkatrade. Of course it will depend on what carpet and underlay you opt for.
Floor insulation will depend on the surface area and whether you have solid or suspended wooden floors.
The average cost for suspended floor insulation is £105 per square metre, according to Checkatrade, although if new timber floorboards are also required this could become as expensive as £286 per square metre.
Loft insulation is typically much cheaper. The cost for insulating a loft in a typical home starts from about £800, according to EDF.
Start at the top: Adding loft insulation is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to increase a property’s EPC rating
For example, insulating a suspended floor could typically cost between £1,300 and £2,700, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
You also discuss the prospect of replacing the boiler if the budget allows.
Modern boilers are more efficient than older boilers and you budget £2,000 to £4,000 to buy and install one.
The other option would be to upgrade to a new heat source, such as an air source or ground source heat pump. This will be much more expensive.
An air source heat pump could improve a home’s EPC rating, but they cost up to £18,000, according to the Green energy supplier GreenMatch UK.
An average ground source heat pump installation for a typical house will cost between £13,000 and £35,000, according to Checkatrade.
However, you might be able to save £5,000 on the cost of fitting a heat pump or biomass boiler to replace an old gas boiler under the Government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which came into force as of 1 April.
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