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Proposed energy bill amendment could force landlords to refurbish

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image Proposed amendment would make landlords responsible for 'greening' properties or be prevented from renting them out

Landlords will be forced to refurbish hundreds of thousands of the UK's most draughty and energy-inefficient homes or find themselves blocked from renting them out, under proposals unveiled on Tuesday.

The government has bowed to pressure from campaigners and brought forward an amendment to its energy bill, discussed by MPs yesterday, that would stop landlords from renting out homes that fell into the worst two bands of energy efficiency – F and G. The clause was missing from the original bill.

As a result, the estimated 680,000 rented homes falling into this category – about one-fifth of the total number of private rented residences – must be refurbished or taken off the market by 2018.

In addition, from 2016, private sector landlords will not be allowed to refuse "any reasonable request" to make energy efficiency improvements to their properties.

Landlords will be able to finance such improvements through loans taken out under the government's "green deal" scheme, under which the cost of the loans will be paid for in installments on the energy bills at the property. The costs should be outweighed by the savings as less energy is used. "This means tenants will get a warmer home and cheaper bills, and the landlord gets the work done," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

However, campaigners said the government was moving far too slowly. Landlords will be able to continue renting out such homes for six years, which they said was too lenient, as the green deal will come into force next year. Dave Timms, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, pointed to research from the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health that found ill-health caused by people living in such sub-standard accommodation was costing the NHS about £145m a year.

The groups also criticised the government for not strengthening tenants' rights to request energy efficiency improvements. "There is nothing in the bill to protect people from retaliatory eviction - where landlords force the tenants to leave if they ask for improvements," said Timms.

About one-fifth of the people in the UK living in "fuel poverty" - without enough money to heat their houses - are living in private rented accommodation.

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