Oxford City Council has taken on powers to improve the energy efficiency standards of commercial and private rented properties across Oxford.
The City Council has accepted the delegation of powers from Oxfordshire County Council relating to enforcement of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) in the domestic private rented sector, and enforcement of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) in commercial properties.
In April 2019, Oxford City Council, alongside five other local authorities, won £150,000 from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to improve energy efficiency in the private rented sector in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council.
BEIS selected Oxford as one of six pilot areas to enforce the minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) that became law in April 2018.
Since April 2018, it has been required that when domestic and commercial private rented properties enter into new leases and lease renewals, that a property should meet a minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES) of E in its Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) - unless there is a valid registered exemption or the property does not require an EPC. Under the law, it is an offence to let a property with an EPC of F or G.
The City Council has been enforcing MEES compliance through inspections of private rented housing and its HMO licensing scheme. Since the pilot started in April 2019, 156 cases have been investigated and 41 property inspections have been made by the City Council with 7 enforcement notices being served in relation to these regulations.
Previously, responsibility for awareness and enforcement of the regulations for MEES and EPCs were split between both Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council.
In November 2019, the County Council Cabinet agreed to delegate the enforcement powers to the City Council. In December, the City Council’s Cabinet accepted the delegation of the powers.
Enforcement of MEES in commercial privately rented property
Under the current energy efficiency regulations, commercial premises, included commercial privately rented property, are required to have an Energy Performance Certificate of E and above.
Previously, the City Council has been informing businesses of their responsibilities to be compliant; however enforcement to improve non-compliant properties was carried out by Oxfordshire County Council.
Under the new agreement, the City Council will now also be able to carry out enforcement, in addition to Oxfordshire County Council. Formal enforcement action on commercial private rented properties will be taken only where advice and education of the businesses had failed.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) enforcement
An energy performance certificate (EPC) shows tenants how energy efficient the property is.
Without an EPC, a property cannot be subject to Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards enforcement, and landlords can avoid enforcement action to improve their property standards.
At the moment only 12,079 of Oxford’s roughly 20,000 privately rented homes have EPCs – meaning the landlords of about 40% of the city’s privately rented homes are breaking the law.
Therefore to assist in the improvement of poor performing properties with an EPC, the City Council has been delegated powers from Oxfordshire County Council to enforce the regulations in relation to EPCs in the domestic private rented sector.
This means that the City Council now also has the power to issue fines of £200 for landlords who do not have an EPC on a private rented home in Oxford.
Landlords can apply for an EPC – which costs between £30 and £50 - for their privately rented property.
Oxfordshire County Council will continue to act as the enforcing authority for domestic and commercial stock owned by Oxford City Council.
Tackling the climate emergency and improving standards
In light of the climate emergency and in response to the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, the City Council will be moving towards a zero carbon building system across eight areas – Council buildings, Council housing, new homes, community buildings, commercial buildings, private rented sector, planning standards, and building standards.
The delegation of powers will ensure that the Council is able to undertake appropriate enforcement in relation to minimum energy efficiency standards in both the domestic and commercial sector.
A City Council study, released last year, that looked at the greenhouse gas emissions generated by different sectors in Oxford – i.e. residential, industrial, agricultural and transportation – found that buildings are the largest contributor (81% of Oxford’s total emissions).
Last month, the City Council announced a wide range of proposals to support vulnerable tenants, improve safety standards, crack down on rogue landlords and upgrade the energy efficiency of private rented houses. The proposals would be the largest change to rules around private rented accommodation in Oxford for a decade – since the City Council introduced powers to licence every house in multiple occupancy (HMO) in the city in 2010.
“I am thrilled that we have accepted the delegation of powers to allow the City Council to improve the energy efficiency standards of commercial and private rented properties across Oxford.
“These powers will allow us to ensure an efficient and more streamlined approach the enforcement for non-compliant properties, and help us to further tackle fuel poverty in our city.
“Buildings make up 81% of Oxford’s total carbon emissions, and it is through ensuring that they are efficient, that we can work to reduce our carbon emissions and tackle the climate emergency.”
Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Housing
“Effective enforcement of these regulations will help improve housing standards across the county. “Better housing energy efficiency standards will ensure residents can live safe and healthy lives, as well as enhancing the local environment.”
Councillor Judith Heathcoat, the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety