Photo of Ben Thompson, Deputy CEO

The pursuit of a greener and more sustainable future remains a priority for many, but what do these new EPC rules for landlords and energy efficiency changes mean for the 2050 net zero goal?

In a significant policy shift, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently announced the scrapping of plans for legislation that would have required landlords to upgrade their properties to EPC band C. This move, which has stirred both praise and concern, raises some important questions about the UK’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions goals by 2050.

The government previously announced changes to minimum energy efficiency standards for England and Wales. Following that announcement, a 2028 deadline was set for all rental properties to meet an EPC rating of 'C' or above.

2025 was the set date for all new rentals to achieve that same minimum EPC rating.

What are your thoughts on the government’s scrapping of the impending EPC regulations?

"My initial reaction when I first heard the news was one of disappointment. I think it’s fairly obvious that we’re completely committed both globally and domestically to the 2050 net zero target. So, to see any sort of relaxation of some of the requirements and the milestones needed to get there is concerning, as it implies a softening of the overall message and its importance. 

At the same time, we have to recognise that there are not just hundreds of thousands, but millions, of people struggling with the cost of living at the moment.

We have to recognise that, of the measures taken by Sunak, this was likely at the top of the pile of considerations, coupled with the practicalities of getting various industries to keep up with timelines, whether fixed or stretching. Fundamentally, however, as they’re very quick to point out, the 2050 target remains.

I think the irony of all of it is they're making it much harder to get there by pushing various dates and milestones back."

Critics have noted that the government was expecting too much from landlords too soon. Would you agree?

"I think if I take a perspective on landlords generally, they had arguably the most pressing timelines involved.

Even those looked too close nearly two or three years ago. That has now proven to be the case. With landlords concerned about meeting retrofit deadlines, those dates have now moved back. What this recognises is the vital role that landlords play in the private rental sector. In the absence of multi-billions of pounds being made available for social housing paid for by the government, and ultimately the taxpayer, private landlords have a very important role to fill. 

Putting them under needless financial pressure to retrofit and upgrade their properties is too severe right now. The government is obviously sensitive to this in particular but I believe you’ll still find a lot of early adopters. These are people who care deeply about the environment, with disposable income or money put aside to improve their homes. These people will continue making their moves regardless of what the government has announced.

On a personal level, I’d like to take every step I possibly can, and have taken some already to get there. 

Not everyone will be lucky enough to do so, but I think you’ll find that people carry on regardless, particularly because of recent climatic events."

House model wrapped in scarf on radiator indoors. Winter heating efficiency

Will tenants be left in inefficient homes following these announcements? 

"At a consumer level, and even an individual level, that person needs to decide what they care about the most, and what is going to make the most impact on their life. Many people at the moment don’t have the fortune or spare income to take the major steps they want. 

Ultimately though, we all have a choice. Fundamentally, whether a homeowner or renter, you can still opt to make cost-effective, minor improvements to a property to improve its energy efficiency. That doesn’t mean having to put in triple-glazing, loads of solar panels, or expensive heat pumps. It means taking baby steps. 

In terms of landlords, it’s a harder conversation. As I say, fundamentally, landlords are under pressure anyway, again because of the cost of living, but also because of the interest rate cycle and some of the tax changes we’ve seen pushed through for landlords in the last three to five years."

How do you think landlords feel about these changes?

"I suspect they're probably relieved that the deadline has gone, but again, you will find some outliers who care deeply about the environment and probably choose to retrofit their properties anyway. At a basic level though, most landlords are in the property business to provide supply to tenants and make a return on their investment.

If they don't have to spend £10,000 - £15,000 on a retrofit, they're probably quite pleased. It’s important to note, however, that EPC changes may still come into play and regardless, we’re all still working towards the 2050 net zero goal."

The government refers to the 2050 net zero deadline as “the challenge of net zero,” stating that they would like to instead turn it into an opportunity.

What could that look like?

"First, our main issue is that we're over dependent on fossil fuel, and have been for many years. It's been very disruptive to the whole global position and peace in the world, for want of a better phrase. We need to strive for something different - self dependence, if you like, as an island nation and as the UK.

What I would love to see is a new industrial revolution, where green becomes what we fully invest in as a country. I’d like to see the country make this our thing for the next few decades, not only to get to 2050 in great shape, but to show the world that the UK is a key investment opportunity in the global playground.

There will be pain to take by doing that, that’s impossible to ignore. There could be increased taxes because of increased investment and spending, but we could see some significant further investment from outside of the UK by doing that, which would feed into and build the economy. 

I’d love to see us really bite the bullet, turning this into something we can do to change the UK and what it stands for in a post-Brexit world. Regardless of the news, we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which I think is absolutely critical not only for net zero, but world peace."

How do you foresee MAB staying the course for net zero targets?

"One of the first things that came to mind was, “what does this mean for us?” 

First and foremost, we’re not stopping. We’ll continue moving forward with exactly the same things we were doing last week, and the week before that, and the week before that. 

The announcement doesn’t change anything for us at all. It changes timelines for consumers, but we’re still pushing ahead with our own designs and propositions. We’re also ploughing ahead with our various ESG strategies, not only because it makes us more investable as a group, but because it’s the right thing to do.

None of that changes because of the announcements this week. I can confidently say that I don't feel any more relaxed than I did two weeks ago! 

Our aim is to lead the charge on positive environmental living, and we will absolutely keep doing that."

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