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Government grants might have been scaled back, but there is still support out there for buy-to-let energy efficiency improvements if you know where to look.

Energy efficiency is one of the most important facets of a rental property for prospective tenants. At the top of the desirability tick list is a comfortable and well maintained interior, a nice neighbourhood and a location that’s close to work, but energy efficiency follows closely behind.

Experienced tenants understand just how much difference the energy efficiency of a rental property can make to their living costs, so those in the know will always take a property’s energy efficiency rating into account before they make a decision.

Unfortunately for landlords with inefficient properties, government support has been scaled back in recent months with the end of the Green Deal and the reduction in feed-in-tariffs for solar panels. However, for buy-to-let landlords who know where to look, there is still some help available.

The staples of energy efficiency

Tenants are not looking for properties with energy generating photo-voltaic cells or wind turbines to power the washer-dryer, but they do look for a few basics when considering their choice of rental property.

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) takes account of factors such as the insulation, heating and hot water systems in the property, as well as the ventilation and the fuels used. The EPC rates the energy efficiency of the property on a scale of A to G, with an ‘A’ rating reserved for the most energy efficient homes. The average property currently in the UK is a band D or E.

Tried and tested methods of improving the energy efficiency of your property, without costing the earth, include:

  • Insulating the loft while allowing ventilation to circulate around it
  • Insulating the hot water cylinder and water pipes
  • Fitting a new energy efficient boiler
  • Installing cavity wall insulation
  • Installing high quality double glazing
  • Fitting a water meter if there is not already one in place

A landlord’s obligations

From 2018, all rented properties must have a minimum energy efficiency rating of ‘E’ before they can be let. Any landlords who fail to comply with these regulations can be fined or banned from letting the property.

In April 2016, all tenants will be given the right to ask their landlord for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements. The landlord will only be able to refuse the request if it is deemed to be ‘unreasonable’.

However, the majority of forward thinking landlords should seek to make their properties more energy efficient if they are not already efficient enough. Energy efficient properties help to attract and keep tenants, and in our experience, happy tenants make happy landlords.

What kind of support is available?

Before paying for improvements in energy efficiency out of your own pocket, it’s worth checking if there are any local council or energy provider schemes in your area to help you foot the bill.

Support for everyone

  • Solar panel feed-in-tariffs – Landlords in England, Scotland and Wales can all benefit from feed-in-tariffs for solar panels. However, this is being reduced drastically from January 2016, so the returns you can expect will be considerably reduced. Take a look at the Energy Saving Trust website for details of the feed-in-tariffs in your area.
  • Biomass fuels – There are also incentives available in England, Wales and Scotland for the installation of heating systems which burn biomass fuels.

Landlords in England

  • Support from energy companies – The government is no longer backing the Green Deal, but energy companies are required to help make properties more efficient. More than a billion pounds has been set aside under the Energy Companies Obligation for insulation and energy saving improvements to reduce heating costs. However, this is targeted at vulnerable or low income households. so not all properties will qualify.

Energy efficient properties are easier to let and make for healthier, happier tenants. At Open House Torbay, we specialise in placing professional tenants in high quality accommodation to remove the worry of void periods and rental arrears. Please get in touch today to find out how we can help you.

 t: 01803 659 000

 e: torquay@localagent.co.uk

w: www.openhousetorbay.co.uk

We break down the findings of an 11-page HMRC consultation document to help you understand exactly what the new wear and tax relief rules mean for you.

By now, the vast the majority of you buy-to-let landlords will be familiar with the changes that are being made to the current wear and tear allowance. If you’re not, then the relatively old news is that from April 2016, the formal wear and tear allowance – which allows 10 percent of rental income to be written off for notional wear and tear, even if there has been no actual expenditure in that year – will be replaced with a relief which allows all landlords to deduct the cost they actually incur on replacing furnishings in the property.

Now, an 11-page consultation document has been published by HMRC, which announces the full scope of the changes. This article aims to break all that down into more palatable bite size chunks so you know exactly what is expected of you.

The HMRC consultation

Perhaps the most important change is that while the old wear and tear allowance applied only to fully furnished properties, the new tax relief will apply to all landlords of residential properties regardless of the level of furnishings. This removes the current uncertainty about whether a property is sufficiently furnished to claim the new replacement furniture relief.

The new relief will only apply to the replacement of furnishings. The initial cost of furnishing a property will not be included. The relief entitles landlords to claim a deduction for the cost of replacing furnishings, appliances and kitchenware provided for the tenant’s use. This includes:

Movable furniture such as beds or suites

  • Fridges and freezers
  • Carpets and floor coverings
  • Televisions
  • Curtains
  • Linen
  • Crockery and cutlery

Fixtures that are integral to the property, which would not normally be removed if the property was sold, will not be included. However, these items are tax deductible as repairs to the property itself. This means landlords will no longer need to concern themselves with whether the item being replaced is a fixture (and therefore a repair to the property) or not, as in either case the cost can be deducted from their rental income.

This includes items like:

  • Baths
  • Toilets
  • Sinks
  • Boilers
  • Fitted kitchen units

The difference between replacements and improvements

The consultation document makes it clear that if a replacement item represents an improvement to the property, the part of the cost that relates to the improvement would not be an allowable expense.

The consultation defines an improvement as something ‘the new asset can do that it could not be used for before’. For example, if you replaced a washing machine for a washer-dryer, the drying element is a definite improvement. If the washer-dryer cost £500, and the cost of a replacement washing machine was £300, you will only be able to claim tax relief on the £300.

The administrative impact

This change will be accompanied by an additional administrative burden for landlords that currently claim the wear and tear allowance. No longer will they simply be able to claim 10 percent of their rental income in tax relief for improvements they may have not even made. Instead, they will need to keep a detailed record of their actual expenditure. However, in practice the real burden will be slight, as landlords already keep detailed records of their other expenses.

What do the changes mean for you?

If you’re unsure of the impact of these changes on you or any of your properties, the team at Open House Torbay will be more than happy to help. Get in touch today:

01803 659 000

torquay@localagent.co.uk

www.openhouse.askmedemo.com