28 January 2013 was the first day on which works can start under the government’s Green Deal initiative on residential properties in England.
The aim of the Green Deal is to improve the energy efficiency of properties by removing the upfront cost of improvements and instead allowing the cost to be paid in instalments through energy bills.
Green Deal Finance can be used to pay for improvements such as cavity wall or loft insulation; upgraded heating; installation of draught-proofing; installation of double glazing; and installation of renewable energy technologies such as solar panels or wind turbines.
A Green Deal Assessor will carry out an inspection of the property being proposed for improvements and will make recommendations as to the most suitable – weighing the cost of the improvements against the likely savings that the improvements would attract. The golden rule is that the savings enjoyed as a result of installing any particular technology must be equal to or greater than the cost of the finance required.
Once the Green Deal Assessor has made recommendations, a Green Deal Plan will need to be signed with a Green Deal Provider. The Green Deal Plan is a contract setting out what work will be done and how much it will cost and once it has been signed the Green Deal Provider will arrange for a Green Deal Installer to carry out the contracted work. All participants in the process are bound by the DECC’s code of practice and must display the quality mark.
Once the Green Deal Installer has carried out the work, the cost will be payable in instalments through energy bills. As the finance obligation passes with the liability to pay the energy bills rather than with the person that signs the Green Deal Plan, Green Deal finance must be disclosed in all new property transactions as part of the EPC information. A written acknowledgment of the finance should be obtained from the tenant, licensee or purchaser in a standard form to confirm the information has been given.
In respect existing tenancies, neither the landlord nor the tenant can sign a Green Deal Plan without the permission of the other.
There are plans afoot to obligate landlords to install green technologies upon receipt of a “reasonable request” from tenants but, as we understand it, these are unlikely to come into force before April 2016.
Filed under: England & Wales, energy efficiency, EPCs, tenancy agreements, Utilities and Services
The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 is expected to come into force in October 2011. Section 45 of the Act amends the Water Industry Act 1991 to place an obligation on the Landlord to provide the tenant’s contact details to the relevant water company. The rationale behind this is to prevent tenant’s departing properties without providing water companies with appropriate forwarding addresses and leaving unpaid bills. Should the landlord fail to comply with this provision he will become jointly and severally liable the invoices of the water usage at the rented property.
The supplemental regulations that the government has created to bring the provisions into force are still in draft. However we understand that they will require the water companies to set up appropriate websites for landlords to provide the necessary information.
These changes place a significant new obligation on landlords. It also gives the water companies a substantial benefit over other utility providers who do not have the benefit of this kind of statutory protection. Landlords and agents should consider amending their tenancy agreements to specify that tenants must provide evidence of the water bill being paid to date otherwise it will be deducted from the deposit.
Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, legislation, Utilities and Services
The Old Bailey will this summer be hearing the case of a Plumber charged with the manslaughter of a woman who died of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is alleged he breached his obligations under regulation 26 (9) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.The Plumber has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
This case should serve as a reminder to landlords and agents to ensure they comply with the obligation to maintain all gas fittings and flues in a safe condition and that the gas safety check is carried out by a registered engineer every year.
Many agents contact us on the helpline in complete frustration due to the tenant’s refusal to grant access for these checks and given the potential consequences the frustration is understandable.
Whilst a landlord will not be able to transfer this responsibility onto the tenant in any circumstances the legislation does make it clear that the landlord is only required to take all reasonable steps to gain access for the checks. Reasonable steps do not include forcing entry or using management keys to gain entry in the absence of consent.
Possible options to gain access include applying for an access injunction or even applying for possession. The injunction is the quicker and potentially the more expensive of the two options and the threat of an injunction is possibly most effective when a tenant understands that the costs of any action will be sought against them.
Whilst it is accepted that this is a very difficult task in some cases, landlords are strongly advised to ensure that they retain confirmation of requests for access, cancellation notices, appointment cards, missed appointment cards and the like to defend their position when and if necessary.
Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, comment, gas safety, legislation, Utilities and Services
As most people will know the UK is in the throes of switching from analogue to digital telelvision signals. For many people this will simply involve a change in equipment, such as a new television set. However, some areas will require that a new aerial is fitted to the property to allow reception of the new signal.
For private landlords there will of course be the question of whether there is an obligation to upgrade the installations in their properties. In the case of O’Connor v Old Etonians Housing Association the Court of Appeal considered whether a landlord was required to upgrade a water installation to deal with a drop in supply pressure. It commented that while it would be unreasonable to expect a landlord to provide an installation which coped with any possible change in supply of services there would be times where a technical advance, which was well flagged in advance, would require a change in installations. In these cases the Court felt that it would be reasonable forr a landlord to be expected to upgrade installations to cope with the change. On this basis one would be forced to the conclusion that landlords will be expected to meet the cost of altering installations to make them compatible with the digital signal.
There are a number of sources of further information on the digital switchover although the majority are targetted at block landlords. There is a Chartered institiute of housing good practice guide as well as a range of resources for property managers.
Filed under: Uncategorized, guidance, Utilities and Services