Tenants in the UK’s draughtiest homes risk paying £1bn extra in energy bills because of a government loophole letting landlords off the hook, a charity has warned.
Landlords will be banned from letting poorly insulated homes from next April under new regulations designed to protect vulnerable tenants and cut carbon emissions.
But campaigners argue that exemptions, which landlords were able to apply for from Sunday, will mean many homes are not upgraded.
If all the landlords of the 300,000 properties affected apply successfully for exemptions, tenants would collectively pay £1bn extra for energy over the next five years, said climate change charity 10:10.
The group said the regulations were “toothless” while the loophole existed, and made a mockery of Conservative election pledges to keep a lid on energy bills.
“Rather than letting landlords off the hook, the government should be backing tenants by closing the loophole and capping the cost for landlords instead to ensure fairness to all concerned,” said Emma Kemp, a campaigner at 10:10.
The private rental sector minimum standard regulations require landlords with a home rated in energy band F or G to bring it up to at least an E by April.
But landlords can apply for an exemption if the work required would present a net cost to them and they cannot access funding through government energy efficiency schemes, which have largely closed and so may provide landlords with a legitimate excuse for not taking action.
Liberal Democrat MP Ed Davey, the former energy secretary who set the regulations in train, said: “The government must urgently confirm that new private green deal finance options will prevent landlords from wriggling out of their responsibilities.”
He added: “Given these regulations will save some low income tenants over £1,000 a year on their energy bills – far more than any energy price cap ever might – as well as cutting carbon emissions, it would be outrageous if the Conservatives gave landlords any loophole.”
A government spokesman said: “These regulations send a clear signal to landlords that they need to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Landlords have access to a variety of schemes which they can use to bring their properties up to scratch and they must pass checks to obtain an exemption.”
The Residential Landlords Association has warned that the cost of paying for the improvements would be passed on to tenants, in the form of higher rents.
About 4 million of the most vulnerable energy bill payers in the UK – those on prepayment meters – will see a cap on their yearly electricity and costs brought down by £19 from Sunday, making their annual bills a maximum of £1,048.