Energy savers programme to benefit Birmingham landlords

Landlords in Birmingham have been dealt a helping hand from the city council, which has agreed to lend property owners cash to pay for energy-efficiency improvements.

The Birmingham Energy Savers scheme (BES), the second city’s equivalent of the wider government Green Deal, will be granted an initial £75 million to spend in its first three years, which will allow approximately 15,000 homes in the West Midlands to initiate energy-efficiency work, reports.

Landlords will be able to borrow money to pay for projects up front, with the cost of the work effectively paid off over time thanks to the savings made on gas and electricity bills. Rather than individuals being burdened with the loan, any outstanding sums will remain with the property.

In addition to being targeted at those with property owners insurance, the scheme will be made available to social housing projects when it launches in the autumn, corresponding to the gradual fall in temperatures in the lead-up to winter.

Birmingham City Council is yet to name a delivery partner for the project, though four companies have been shortlisted: E.ON, Carillion, SSE Energy Solutions and RWE npower.

Those with buildings and contents requiring further protection may also be eligible to a proportion of an additional £25 million being targeted by BES, which it hopes will be sourced from the government’s Energy Company Obligation budget.

Providing the scheme is successful and can attract private finance, the council hopes that it can be extended to a further 45,000 homes – though BES’s ambitions don’t end there. By 2026, it’s hoped that 200,000 homes throughout the second city and the West Midlands will have benefitted from a retrofit.

A number of housing associations have lent their support to the initiative; among them Accord Housing Association. Alan Yates, its group director, said that the scheme will be flexible enough to accommodate improvements to many different property types.

According to the National Landlords Association, the wider Green Deal scheme will allow landlords to improve their properties for free – although urged those with let properties to understand the consequences.

One of these is that, by 2016, tenants will be afforded the power to demand energy-efficiency improvements from their landlord. If a landlord refuses – without a reason they can justify – a local authority can effectively force them to have the improvements made. Any landlord who refuses the improvements risks being fined up to £5,000.

The law will strengthen further in 2018 with the introduction of the government’s minimum energy-efficiency standards. Unless a landlord has proof that they’ve done everything in their power using the Green Deal to bring a property up to band E, they will not be able to let a property falling into bands F or G.

The Green Deal will begin taking effect in October and is being billed as an opportunity for landlords to reduce maintenance bills and make their tenants’ homes more efficient and comfortable to live in.

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