Landlords’ unwillingness to spend money insulating millions of drafty rental properties is a significant obstacle to Britain’s net zero-carbon agenda, a think-tank has warned.
More than half (60%)* of landlords are unwilling commit to contributing more than £250 towards the costs of improving the energy efficiency of a rented property, the Social Market Foundation revealed.
The SMF, a cross-party think-tank, said that government targets to decarbonize homes are likely to fail if politicians cannot find ways to ensure private rented sector landlords do more to better insulate rented homes.
Polling for the SMF asked landlords and homeowners how much they were willing to pay out of their own pockets towards a government-discounted insulation upgrade.
Homeowners were more willing than landlords to say they would contribute. 41% of homeowners said they would contribute more than £500 to state-funded energy efficiency work on their property, but only 30% of landlords said the same (See Figure 1).
In the last two decades, the private rented sector has doubled in size – 4.6 million households rented their home from a private landlord in 2021/22, representing 19% of all households in England – and is set to grow further. Over 60% of private rented sector homes have an EPC rating of D or below.
That means understanding how to encourage the private rented sector to make energy efficiency upgrades should now be a key focus of climate policy, the SMF said.
The SMF’s findings come ahead of Government’s “Green Day” on Thursday, when the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero is expected to announce an updated Net Zero Strategy.
Previous SMF work on the private rented sector has found that over half (52%) of renters dislike being unable to make energy efficiency improvements to the home, rising to three in five (60%) among parents (See Note 3).
The findings published by the SMF today are part of wider polling analysis, that sought to understand the barriers that hinder some groups from making efficiency upgrades to their homes. While cost remains a significant barrier to uptake, significant portions of the public reported “other” barriers, thus further research is required to identify these and to design an informed policy to encourage wider take up of efficiency measures.
The SMF will conduct a series of focus groups and interviews of the different groups throughout the spring of 2023, to better understand barriers to home energy efficiency upgrade.
The polling also found that over half (54%) of homeowners do not believe they need any (or any more) insulation, but a majority (74%) would be willing to co-contribute some money to invest in insulation measures along with a government subsidy.
Niamh O Regan, Researcher at the Social Market Foundation, said:
“Too many British homes have poor energy efficiency, so the people who live in them are poorer and colder than they should be. And too many of those homes are rented out by landlords who aren’t willing to make their properties less drafty.”
Given the continuing growth of the private rented sector, the reluctance of many landlords to take action on energy efficiency is now a significant threat to Britain’s carbon reduction targets. The politicians who rightly see Net Zero as key to our future should be working urgently on new measures to ensure rented properties become warmer and cheaper and more energy efficient.”
*60% figure includes respondents who selected “don’t know”, as well as monetary values up to £249 in response to the question “If the Government were to offer you a discount to help you upgrade your home’s insulation, how much would you be willing to pay out of your pocket to contribute to this insulation upgrade? As a rough guide, the average investment required to bring draughty homes up to the Government’s target EPC rating of C is around £7,000.”
- The SMF briefing is published at smf.co.uk/publications/lagging-behind/ on Wednesday 29th March 2023.
Figure 1: Public willingness to co-contribute to home energy-efficiency costs, by tenure
Source: SMF analysis of Public First polling. Fieldwork dates: 21st October – 25th October 2022.
Survey question: “If the Government were to offer you a discount to help you upgrade your home’s insulation, how much would you be willing to pay out of your pocket to contribute to this insulation upgrade? As a rough guide, the average investment required to bring draughty homes up to the Government’s target EPC rating of C is around £7,000.”
Note: In the survey, “£0” was defined as “I would not be willing to pay anything out of pocket”.
- The briefing is sponsored by European Climate Foundation (ECF). The SMF retains full editorial independence.
- SMF report, Where next for the private rented sector? (March 2022), can be found at https://www.smf.co.uk/publications/private-rented-sector/
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