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Energy efficiency in privately rented homes: you talked, we listened

Lisa Glass
Written by Lisa Glass

In June 2017 we gathered the views of over 200 private tenants on the Scottish Government’s proposal to introduce a minimum energy efficiency standard for private rented homes, after a plea from us for the help of private tenants!

To the private tenants we spoke to, this is a big thank you!

Twenty-four of you completed an in-depth online survey, and we spoke to 14 of you either face to face or on the phone about your experiences.  This provided a real day to day understanding of some of the properties you have all stayed in, and which might be impacted under the new legislation, and how that affected each and every one of you.  This information and experience gathered from you all was then put into a report, alongside a bigger survey, carried out by YouGov, with a sample size of 1,042 Scottish adults including 172 private tenants.

The key points you (on the whole as a group of private renters) told us were:

  • You wish your homes were more energy efficient
  • You struggle to pay your fuel bills and/or keep your home warm
  • You currently feel powerless to deal with issues of energy inefficiency in your home. You fear revenge eviction or rent increases if you ask for too much, and feel even when you do ask your landlords don’t do anything or are very slow to act.
  • You are unable to ‘vote with your feet’ to choose energy efficient housing.
  • You support the introduction of the minimum energy efficiency standard.

In the report, which was commissioned by WWF Scotland, who are members of the Existing Homes Alliance Scotland, we have presented your views in the way in which you told us them (you’ll note too that we changed all your names to ensure everyone was anonymous).  We then submitted this to the Scottish Government as part of their consultation on the legislation they’re proposing.  Alongside these overarching findings, we also provided your feedback on some of the specific parts of the proposals, including fines for landlords who don’t comply, and when it should all be introduced: as one survey respondent commented with regard to it the proposal to introduce it by 2025: “that’s a lot of years of wearing my coat indoors”.

A key point that stands out for me is the day to day impact of living in a cold home:  the story Gavin told us about making a heater from tea lights after watching a video on YouTube, Polly dragging in an electric heater to their bathroom to heat it up when she had a bath.  Katie and Bob who talked about wearing coats, hats, and blankets indoors to keep warm.  And the difficulty you talked about in getting your landlords (or some of them) to complete even basic repairs, which meant a lot of you said you wouldn’t even bother asking your landlord to do something like installing a full new central heating system to keep your bills down: like Graham, who was too busy dealing with the fact his property had flooded or Gail who had no way of cooking for a month.  I hope these are the things that stick in the minds of policy makers in Scottish Government as they consider the legislation.

The Scottish Government will now consider all the responses they received, from organisations like ourselves, Energy Action Scotland and the Existing Homes Alliance Scotland, and landlord bodies like Scottish Association of Landlords and the Council of Letting Agents .

But – arguably most importantly – the Scottish Government will also be able to consider the views of private tenants such as yourselves which we have tried to gather and represent in this report.

All the responses should be up on the Scottish Government’s website shortly.

If you’ve get any questions about this piece of work, or if you’re a private tenant and would like to be involved in similar projects in future, do get in touch at lisa_glass@shelter.org.uk

But most importantly, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to share their views and experiences.  This wouldn’t have been possible without you!

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About the author

Lisa Glass

Lisa Glass

Lisa is a Policy Officer at Shelter Scotland.