June 3, 2014 1:11 pm

House Rules: new incentives to make UK homes energy efficient

More money for energy-efficient homes, implementation of the Water Act and rules for registering septic tanks
Illustration by James Ferguson depicting property law©James Ferguson

1. More money for energy-efficient homes

I’ve heard the government is offering even more money to get us to make our homes more energy efficient. What’s the latest? The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is due to launch in June. It makes two core offers. The first is that every household could get up to £1,000 (£1,500 if you bought your house in the 12 months before you apply) for installing two energy efficiency measures from a list of 12, which includes flat roof insulation and replacement doors.

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I need solid wall insulation. £1,000 won’t go far towards that, will it? That’s covered by the other core offer. You could get up to 75 per cent of the total cost of internal or external solid wall insulation, up to a maximum of £6,000.

What about renewable heating systems? These aren’t included, because they are covered by the separate domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which aims to offset the cost of installation by paying a tariff on energy produced over seven years.

Do I have a free choice about what improvements to choose from the list? Not entirely. You can only claim for things that are recommended in an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) or a Green Deal Assessment Report that is no more than two years old at the time you apply.

So I have to spend money on an assessment first? Not necessarily. If you have moved house in the past two years, you may be able to use the EPC you received from your seller (but do check it isn’t more than two years old). Failing that, you can get a Green Deal Assessment and claim back up to £100 to cover the cost.

If I get a Green Deal Assessment, won’t I be committed to a Green Deal loan? No. You don’t have to be using Green Deal funding to claim under the new scheme. It is always an option, though, once you’ve had an assessment

Can I use the scheme to improve buy-to let properties I own? Yes, as long as you haven’t already received more than £160,000 in grants from the government over the past three financial years – the total you can receive is capped under European law. Your tenants could apply too, but only if they are paying for the improvements themselves.

How do I get started? The application website and telephone hotline should go live in early June. Once you’ve got your assessment and decided which improvements to do, you can register for your voucher. When the work is finished, you send in your documents and you should be paid within 10 working days.

Are there any timing issues to think about? Yes. The work must be done by a registered Green Deal installer or provider within six months of the date of your voucher, so make sure you are ready to go before you apply. Don’t wait too long though, because the scheme will only be open for a year.

2. Flood insurance scheme edges close

Flood insurance is in the news again. What’s the latest? The Water Act became law on May 14. It sets out the framework for the government’s flood insurance scheme, which was agreed in principle with the insurance industry last summer.

Has the list of excluded properties got any shorter? No. Homes in Council Tax Band H and those built since January 1 2009 are still excluded. In addition, the scheme now excludes all business premises, most blocks of flats and all buy-to-let property. That doesn’t necessarily mean that owners won’t be able to get flood insurance but they will have to pay the full market price rather than a capped rate.

Is that the end of the story? No. Lots of detail will still be filled in by regulations before the scheme takes effect, probably towards the end of 2014.

3. Less red tape for septic tank

I’ve heard the government is planning to cut red tape for properties that drain to septic tanks. What’s happening? The government wants to simplify the rules about registering septic tanks and is running a consultation aimed at the owners of rural homes and businesses (including camp sites and holiday accommodation) not connected to mains sewers.

Is there much to say? You simply fill in a short online questionnaire to give your views. The consultation is open until June 10 2014.

Fiona Larcombe is a solicitor in the Real Estate team at King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin

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