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Homeowners could be forced to make houses more energy efficient before selling up

Friday 19 January 2018

Owners of fuel-poor homes could soon be forced to upgrade them before selling, if ministers take the advice of a select committee.

As part of an independent assessment of the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy, the Committee on Climate Change set out their assessment of what is needed from the Government by way of next steps.

The Committee questioned the Government’s current approach to encouraging homeowners to end energy waste, worrying it will not be enough to tackle climate change, and suggested the Government take a more aggressive approach in meeting the UK’s eco obligations.

In line with the Climate Change Act, the Government needs to cut CO2 emissions by 57 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050. The Committee is therefore calling for urgent action to reduce the amount of wasted energy, in a move that could affect at least 1.2 million homes with EPC ratings of F and G. 

Not unlike the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) that are due to be phased in for rental properties from this April, owners would have to upgrade their properties to at least Energy Performance Certificate band E by 2020, with the Government's ultimate aim to upgrade as many homes as possible to a band C by 2035.

The Committee identified the need for urgency in developing firm policies, stressing the requirement for an ambitious action plan setting out a robust policy framework, including efficiency incentives, with strong commitments on the level of ambition and funding. The committee has initially suggested incentivising sellers with low-interest loans in order to undertake the work, or offering a benefit in the form of discounted Stamp Duty if the upgrade takes place shortly after its purchase - an idea that was originally floated by Minister for Climate Change Claire Perry MP back in October. If voluntary take-up is slow and insufficient, options that are initially incentivised could later become mandatory.

David Joffe, the committee’s ‘head of carbon budgets’, said that targeting homes at the point of sale made sense because they were often upgraded at that time anyway. “The least efficient properties are the ones that give the greatest problem to people living in them, in terms of being cold and damp,” he said. “It’s not just about energy cost and emissions.”

The report highlighted the need for higher energy standards in new homes, addressing the gap between design and actual performance to realise energy savings and deliver high-quality homes. Committee chairman Lord Deben called on housebuilders to publish the expected costs of heating and lighting for each home as they are built.

He was also critical of Jeff Fairburn, chief executive of Persimmon, over his expected bonus, commenting: “If Persimmon had spent the £112 million it has given to its chief executive on improving the energy efficiency of the 18,000 houses it built last year, every one of their purchasers would be paying significantly less as a result.”

Read the full report