The Regulation of Energy Efficiency in Private Sector Homes (REEPS)

The regulation of energy efficiency in private sector homes (REEPS) is the subject of a working group set up by the Scottish Government in 2013 in order to consider the issues around its potential implementation. This stakeholder working group has varied membership, consisting of private sector landlords, environmental groups, consumer interest groups, local authorities and the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum.

The move to introduce REEPS initially came from the Climate Change Scotland Act 2009, which placed a duty on Minsters to set regulations on the energy efficiency of housing. As part of the Sustainable Housing Strategy published in June 2013, the Scottish Government set up this working group to develop proposals for minimum energy efficiency standards in private sector housing, taking account of issues raised in a consultation.

Energy Action Scotland and National Energy Action suggested in the UK Fuel Poverty Monitor 2013/14[1], as one of the key national recommendations for Scotland, that the Scottish Government should bring forward its plans to introduce energy efficiency regulation in the private rented sector.  The move was intended to stop Scotland lagging behind both the social rented sector and similar moves in England under the Energy Act 2011 to improve the energy efficiency of privately rented property.

Other housing tenures have standards – there is the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH), which was preceded by the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS), for local authorities and other Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) such as housing associations. There are Building Standards – with a new section on Energy, about to come into force in October 2015. However these Building Standards are for new buildings being constructed rather than existing buildings. There is also the Repairing Standard which ensures that a Private Landlord’s property must meet a minimum physical standard. Of relevance is the requirement that installations for supplying water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order. However this standard does not address energy efficiency at all – so there is a huge gap in the private rented sector and private sector.

Current statistics for the private rented sector in Scotland[2] show that it has increased in size over the last 12 years while the social rented sector is in decline. The current figures show that the proportion of households in the private rented sector has increased to 14% in 2014.

A consultation on REEPS is imminent and happening in the same year as a major overhaul of legislation in the private rented sector by the Scottish Government, in order to help remove the fear of eviction and to help tenants assert their rights.

So 14% of households are living in the properties of private landlords.  Many of these are flatted properties, often tenements built around the 1900s and not very energy efficient at all with poor energy efficiency ratings.  Most are solid wall properties; therefore energy efficiency measures are going to be more expensive.

In addition, poverty itself is no longer the premise of the elderly only. Recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that people who are younger and who live in the private rented sector are now more at a risk of poverty. As JRF say in their recent publication Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Scotland 2015[3]:

 “Over ten years, the number of people in poverty in the social rented sector has decreased, whereas the amount in the private rented sector has drastically increased. The rise – but not the fall – is mainly in people of working age”.

Working age adults, renting from a private landlord – this is the new landscape of poverty in Scotland in 2015.

The latest official figures for fuel poverty in Scotland are 940, 000 households or 39.1% and Energy Action Scotland estimates that there are now a million households struggling with fuel poverty. The SHCS Key Findings report[4] noted that people in the private rented sector were more likely to cite a problem with their home as the reason for not keeping warm in winter (such as poor insulation, draughts or inadequate heating) while social renters were more likely to say it was cost. This highlights how housing tenure differs – fuel efficiency is key for the private rented sector.

The question now is whether having standards that need to be met by all landlords would result in there being more investment and focus in the private rented sector.

The principles which the REEPS group works to include that any regulation should fit with any current incentives, such as grant programmes. The design of the standards should be clear, understandable and appropriate to Scottish housing types. Regulation should be sustainable in financial terms and fair and impartial and the timing of introducing any regulations should be appropriate with enough lead-in time.  The group’s timescales suggest that a consultation will be carried out in 2015 with any regulations being introduced in 2018.

The REEPS working group is supported by two sub groups, one looking at the technical aspects of energy efficiency and how they tie in to regulation and the other looking at consumer behaviour and attitudes to energy efficiency.

The consultation on REEPS is due out soon.

Updated The consultation on REEPS has been delayed until the next Parliamentary session. Margaret Burgess made this announcement in the Scottish Parliament on 18 September 2015 saying it was due to the increased uncertainty around support for household energy efficiency.

 

For further information on this briefing or on fuel poverty in Scotland, please contact Helen Melone, Research, Information and Project Officer, Energy Action Scotland on [email protected] or call 0141 226 3064.

 

September 2015

 


[1] The Fuel Poverty Monitor 2013/14, NEA & EAS, 2014

[2] Scotland’s People Annual Report: Results from the 2014 Scottish Household Survey, Scottish Government, 2015

[3] Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Scotland 2015, Kenway, Peter; Bushe, Sabrina; Tinson, Adam and Born, Theo Barry, 2015

[4] Scottish House Conditions Survey – Key Findings 2013, Scottish Government, 2014