65% of UK renters say rising fuel costs will make it difficult for them to pay their energy bills, with 62% indicating they may struggle to pay their rent this winter, according to research commissioned by Smart Energy GB.
With the current fuel crisis seeing an increase in energy prices, ongoing hikes in household bills are proving to be a major concern for millions of households across the country, particularly those in rented accommodation.
Almost half of renters surveyed are worried about how they will pay their bills, with 57% saying these concerns are having a negative impact on their mental health.
According to the findings, renters think landlords could be doing more to help, with 46% saying their energy bills could be better managed if their landlord made their home more energy efficient. 28% of renters don’t feel their landlord supports them enough when it comes to managing their energy use, with 85% of renters who do not feel that their property is as energy efficient as it can be concerned that a current lack of energy-efficient measures will make their energy costs even higher.
In terms of things that renters feel their landlords could do to make their homes more energy-efficient, they would like their homes to be better insulated (73%), with other popular initiatives including having drafts filled in (54%), boilers upgraded (45%) and double glazing installed (44%).
Although 60% of tenants say being in a rented property restricts their ability to manage their energy use and costs, they are making their own environmentally-friendly changes and adapting their behaviours around the home. Turning off lights topped the list (59%), with 56% turning off appliances when they were not using them. They are also less likely to turn the heating on, with 44% of renters saying their heating remains switched off, even when it’s cold.
Additionally, 67% of tenants say having a smart meter would help them manage their energy costs, with 55% secure in the knowledge that, if they are the ones paying the bills, they can have one installed by their energy supplier without the permission of their landlord. Alarmingly, some renters have been put off doing this as, not only did they think their landlord would not like it (16%), they were also concerned they may lose their deposit (14%).
Kate Faulkner, founder of Propertychecklists.co.uk, said: “A great first starting point for landlords in terms of helping their tenants to take energy-saving steps is to arrange for a smart meter installation if they are the bill payer. Or if their tenant is the bill payer, to empower them to request a smart meter installation. Smart meters can also help ensure any problems with utility bill payments at the end of a lease are avoided and better still, the less money tenants spend on their utility bills means the more likely they are to be able to afford their rent payments.”
Smart Energy GB and Propertycheckists.co.uk have developed five tips on how landlords can support their tenants to be more energy-efficient:
Job #1: Get a smart meter
A smart meter is the new generation of energy meter. Just like cars have more electronic kit, such as sat-navs, keyless entry and diagnostics to understand what’s wrong, a smart meter provides near-real-time information via the in-home display on the user’s gas and electricity use, in both Kwh and in pounds and pence, so tenants and landlords better understand what drives their bills up. This helps households understand how they can make changes to their energy use - and save money.
Even better, just like technology has made it easier to diagnose what’s wrong with a car, smart meters will save everyone time and money by sending the readings to the energy supplier automatically.
Job #2: Check what eco-features the property has already
Depending on the age of the boiler, newer ones will have an ‘eco mode’ which you can turn on that can save money as it stops water from being preheated. The downside is it takes a little longer for hot water to come out of the tap, the upside is, it can save money.
Job #3: Use LED lighting
Whether you pay the utility bill or not, either fit LED lights yourself, for example, before you re-let the property or, if you have a tenant already in the property, advise them they could save around £40 a year by fitting LEDs. You could even consider gifting the tenant some bulbs to support them following the utility cost rises.
Job #4: Fit thermostats on radiators
If you haven’t already fitted them, thermostats on radiators can really help tenants only heat the areas required, or boost the areas they are living in most, keeping some heat on in rooms used a lot less. I have these and they are my main way to keep the different rooms I use at different times nice and warm, as well as save money on my bills.
Job #5: If renovating or upgrading a property, fit insulation
A great way to keep costs down for tenants is making sure roof spaces, walls and floors are insulated, basically ensuring less heating is required to keep a home warm. This is a pretty cost-effective way to help tenants (or yourself if you are the bill payer) as something like 25% of heat loss is via the roof, and if installed by a professional, it should deliver savings for around 40 years.
Iagan MacNeil, Head of Policy, Smart Energy GB, said: “Households across the country are seeing their energy costs going up, so it is more important than ever that landlords do their bit to make their tenants lives easier when it comes to managing their energy use and bills, as well as increasing the energy efficiency of their properties. Smart meters are useful in that they provide automatic billing and greater visibility of energy use in near real-time, so tenants know in pounds and pence how much they are spending each day. It is a bill payer’s right to have a smart meter, so we hope that landlords responsible for the energy bill will consider installing a smart meter or work with their tenants to get them installed in their rental properties.”
Peter Smith, Director of policy and advocacy National Energy Action, adds: “Tenants in the private rented sector often face higher energy costs as they tend to live in the least efficient homes. It’s, therefore, no wonder that 65% say they worry they may struggle to pay their energy bills. Landlords have a big role to play in helping to make the impact of higher prices more affordable and therefore increasing the chances their tenants can make the rent. Energy efficiency interventions can help make significant cost savings but even a smaller step like having a smart meter would help tenants manage their energy costs.
Peter concludes: “Smart meters can also reduce the need for landlords to support tenants through the moving-in process and reduce disputes with things like final meter readings at the end of a lease, leading to lower costs relating to disputes. Additionally, during void periods, landlords would have an increased ability to keep the meter topped up to avoid build-up of damp in the property which could require increased maintenance. Whilst its right to keep your landlord informed of any changes to their properties, It is important tenants know they can access these benefits without having to have the consent of their landlord and landlords know what’s in it for them”.