Last month, we were approached by a very worried landlord who had just heard about the new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for landlords and rental properties. He, along with a couple of others, owns 6 flats above a pub in central London, and we were asked on behalf of the owners and landlords in the building to carry out some EPC surveys and find out if there was a need for any improvements.
The new standards require that the properties have a minimum efficiency of E. This is usually fairly easy to achieve, but this property was over 100 years old, with ageing boilers and windows.
On first inspection, each flat looked fairly similar. They are very typical older properties with large sash windows and solid brick walls. There were a few differences, however, which impacted on the rating they would achieve:
- Boilers – Some of the properties had older non-condensing combi boilers. These dragged the rating down because they are much less efficient than modern condensing combis. A couple of the flats had modern condensing boilers so there was a clear difference in these properties. One also had a system boiler installed, which means it had a hot water cylinder as well as the boiler unit. This is less common in flats because they take up more space, but this one was well hidden away in a dead space in the kitchen, and it was a condensing boiler, so actually very efficient.
- Windows – This is often where a lot of attention falls for landlords and this example was no exception. The windows were an area identified before the visit as a potential area for improvement, and on the visit, we could see why. Nearly all the windows in the block were around 30 year old double glazed wooded sash units in very poor condition. They were loose in their frames, draughty and not opening and closing correctly. The width of the panes in the double glazing was very narrow, which leads to poor thermal performance as well. Having said that, the EPC will simply record that there are older double glazed units, and so installing new double glazing will not improve the rating as much as one might first think.
- Floor position – In a block of flats, there must be top floor flats, which have roofs exposed to the elements, ground floor flats where there are suspended or solid floors, and mid floor flats which are sandwiched between other properties. In this block, the ground floor was a commercial unit, with the flats just above having what is defined by the EPC software as an intermittently heated space. The energy rating for these properties will be impacted by this space below, but not as much as the heat lost through the top floor flat, which has an uninsulated flat roof. The mid floor flats will be the most efficient, having the least amount of potential heat loss area in their thermal envelope.
The results – What was the rating?
The rating is the crucial thing for landlords, as without an E rating or above they cannot rent out the property from next April. Fortunately, each of the properties managed to reach at least an E rating. The specific ratings were as follows:
Flats Above Commercial Unit – Both D rated
Mid Floor Flats – Both C rated
Top Floor Flats – Both D rated
Despite the fact that each flat managed to pass the MEES, there is still room for improvement. Here are our broad recommendations for the flats:
- Windows – Changing the windows will not dramatically improve the energy rating of the flats, but there will be a small uplift. Financially, it is not worth changing the windows on energy efficiency grounds alone. Instead, we would recommend changing the units where they are beyond repair, and perhaps getting the units in a better condition to be refurbished. This is much cheaper than new units and will result in the windows being less draughty and opening much more easily.
- Boilers – Whilst some boilers are modern and efficient, others are very old and getting towards the end of their lifespans. It will usually make a half to full rating level difference by upgrading old boilers, so if the EPC rating is important to you, this should be carefully considered. The energy efficiency savings alone usually don’t make the upgrade worthwhile however, and it might be worth waiting for the boiler to fail or become too unreliable before upgrading.
- Roof insulation – The top floor flats have flat roofs with no insulation. It’s a good idea to upgrade the insulation in the roof, as this is where the majority of heat is lost. The cost to replace a flat roof is quite high, but it will make a big difference on the EPC for the top floor flats and improve thermal comfort for the occupants.
It is important to remember that as time goes by, legislation tends to become more strict, meaning that when the current EPC expires in 10 years’ time, upgrades may well be required to meet the new energy standards. By getting in early and making the necessary upgrade work, a lot of this can be preempted, especially when some aspects of the property are due for replacement anyway.