- 1 in 4 low-income households renting from a private landlord is unable to afford their energy bills
- Nearly half a million households being made to suffer by Landlords with Victorian standards of living
- Fuel Poverty campaigners call for Theresa May to give back control to low-income renters
The National Right to Fuel Campaign, a consortium of Fuel Poverty campaigners, is calling on the Government to acknowledge that it is missing its own fuel poverty targets and redouble efforts to protect ordinary people from greedy landlords.
With more than 25,000 avoidable deaths a year caused by Fuel Poverty and an NHS bill of nearly £2billion, cold and damp homes are having a disastrous affect on the UK. The problem is particularly acute for the half a million householders living in rental accommodation rated as F or G standard, with 115,000 of these households already in fuel poverty. These properties are on average nearly £1,000 more expensive to power and heat a year which means that landlords are literally leaving their renters out in the cold.
The Government’s 2015 Fuel Poverty Strategy recognised the problem and promised to upgrade all F and G rated homes by 2020. Yet recent research shows that in the last 12 months since the Government’s strategy kicked off, only a few thousand homes have been upgraded by landlords. On this current trajectory the Government will drastically miss its own targets – 115,000 rented homes upgraded by 2020 and nearer to 0.5million by 2030 – leaving many campaigners with the strong impression that the Government is trying to hide this issue from Parliament and the press.
“In March 2015, in the Fuel Poverty Strategy, the Government committed to holding a debate in Parliament every 12 months on fuel poverty. That has not happened in 2016. The results have been hugely disappointing to date – reaching a standard of E for all homes by 2020 should be our minimum ambition” said Dr Brenda Boardman, a member of the National Right to Fuel Campaign and Oxford University’s pre-eminent authority on fuel poverty.
The Government’s progress has been hampered by the scrapping of its green deal scheme – a financing mechanism which was meant to create a new mass market for household energy efficacy upgrades. This failure, together with cuts, since 2012, to government grants for less well-off households, means that 100,000 low-income renters are now reliant on the Government pushing through its commitment to force all landlords to a minimum E standard from 2018.
However, the recent merger of two Government departments to align energy policy with business regulation and ongoing cuts to Local Authorities, has created concern that the new regulations will remain largely unenforced in most areas.
John Kolm-Murray and his team at Islington Council have a lot of experience working with Landlords, “We welcome the Government’s commitment to ban landlords who try to rent out low performing properties. The majority of landlords do the right thing, but we find that the 30% who don’t are just trying to make a quick buck from desperate tenants. These people are often students, the elderly or low-income families and they need help from local authorities to enforce these regulations, resources which most of us don’t have following recent cuts”.
These concerns are shared by the property industry and the Association of Residential Letting Agents have confirmed to the National Right to Fuel Campaign that they are keen to see all UK landlords providing energy efficient housing.
Over the coming weeks, the National Right to Fuel Campaign will be asking a series of questions through its parliamentary group, holding the Government to account on its fuel poverty commitments – an annual progress report; a debate in Parliament on how it will get back on track to meet its targets; and confirmation on the detail of the new regulations for landlords that will go ahead in 2018.
Simon Roberts, CEO of the Centre for Sustainable Energy (independent charity 298740), sums it up in the following way: “June’s referendum vote demonstrated the need for government – national and local – to do more to help our most disadvantaged and ‘left-behind’ communities. Since 2010, our work with the health sector, with local councils and with community groups to improve the lives of people living on low-incomes in cold and damp homes has been undermined enormously by poor government policy. It is critical that the government gets it right now”.
The battle lines are drawn in the fight to protect disadvantaged communities from fuel poverty. In November, the National Right to Fuel Campaign will be hosting a Westminster debate led by former Chair, Paul Lewis, to raise awareness of these issue.
- Campaign members (include):
Age UK, the Association of Local Energy Officers, Arup, the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Generation Rent, Green Energy, National Energy Action and the National Union of Students
- Fuel Poverty definition:
In essence the condition of being unable to afford to keep one’s home adequately heated. The government uses an equation – the Low Income High Costs Indicator – to assess those, in fuel poverty, who are in most need https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/fuel-poverty-statistics
- Underlying data:
The number of households in fuel poverty and in the privately rented sector has been increasing in absolute terms from 755,000 in 2012 to 852,000 in 2014 (Table A). This is an increase of nearly 13%. The total number of private renters in the UK is 4.3million https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/private-rental-market-statistics-may-2015. Private rented households represent an increasingly high proportion of the fuel poor in England, from 33.1% in 2012 to 35.8% in 2014. This is despite the growth in the total number of fuel-poor households from 2.283 m in 2012 to 2.379 m in 2014.
Table A: Number of households in fuel poverty in England and in the privately rented sector, 2012-14 (thousands)
Sources: 2012 from DECC (2014), table 3; 2013 from DECC (2015), table 4; 2014 from DECC (2016), table 6
The Fuel Poverty Strategy (2015) has a target to ensure that by 2030 no fuel-poor household is in accommodation below band C on the energy performance certificate (EPC) scale, where reasonably practicable.
Based on the data for 2014 (Table B), published in 2016, the interim and final targets require:
(220,000+67,000) = 287,000 households to be lifted out of F and G-rated properties by 2020, ie 71,750 households pa;
(287,000+758,000) = 1,045,000 households to be lifted out of E-rated properties by 2025, ie 209,000 households pa
(1,045,000 +1,055,000) = 2,100,000 households to be lifted out of D-rated properties by 2030, ie 420,000 households pa.
Table B: Number of households in fuel poverty in England, by SAP band, 2012-14 (thousands)
Sources: 2012 from DECC (2014), table 22; 2013 from DECC (2015) table 23; 2014 from DECC (2016), table 4
Note: *SAP 2009 band, so not directly comparable with the SAP 2012 used for 2013 and 2014
In March 2015, when the Fuel Poverty Strategy was published, there were 313,000 fuel-poor households living in F and G properties (ie 234,000+79,000), indicating that 62,600 should be upgraded to E-band or better each year. From Table B, the number of fuel-poor households in F and G properties in 2016 was 287,000 (220,000+67,000), a drop of only 26,000 from the 313,000 of a year before. This is less than half the annual rate required. Hence, the annual rate over the rest of this Parliament has increased to 71,750 households pa to make up the difference.
In 2014, 118,000 of the fuel-poor households in privately rented accommodation were in F/G rated properties, representing nearly 14% of the 852,000 privately rented fuel poor (2014, table 16). No earlier breakdown is available of SAP by tenure in the published statistics. This 118,000 represents 41% of all the fuel poor in F and G-rated properties. This is just slightly less than the 45% of owner-occupied properties that are fuel poor (2014, table 16). So the privately rented sector is not the largest group of fuel poor households in F and G properties, but the risk of being in an F or G-rated property is greatest in the privately rented sector.
It is not possible from these published statistics to identify the tenure of the 26,000 fuel-poor households lifted from F and G properties between 2013-14. They have to be predominantly private sector, as less than 1% of the social sector is in F and G properties. It is the split between owner-occupiers and privately rented that is not available.
Table 16 – Fuel poverty by tenure (FPEER split)
|Tenure||Proportion of households within group (%)||Number of households (000's)||Total number of households (000's)||Proportion of fuel poor households (%)||Aggregate fuel poverty gap (£m)||Average fuel poverty gap (£)|
|Not fuel poor||Fuel poor||Not fuel poor||Fuel poor|
The size of the gap between what households should be spending and the national average expenditure on fuel is £1320 for those in a G-rated property, and £943 for those in an F-rated property (2014, table 4).4.
- The Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA):
ARLA supports the new legislation for 2018, in principle. It is calling for Government to clarify how the legislation will work now that it has scrapped the Green Deal financing mechanism and how it will be enforced. Any further delay by Government will leave an unreasonable amount of time for Landlords to upgrade their properties. David Cox (Managing Director) is available for comment.