England and Wales’ leasehold law is preventing important progress being made in improving the energy efficiency of our flats. Future Climate are working with TLT Solicitors, Westminster City Council, the parliamentary campaigner Jenny Holland and with the support of the Oxford University Law Faculty to propose a simple change to leasehold law that would increase the rate of energy efficiency refurbishments in flats. Our proposed legal reform has been drafted as a bill that could be taken forward on a stand-alone basis or as part of wider legislation.
The campaign group were delighted in December 2016 to receive the Shift Award for best policy proposal. This is important recognition from the social housing sector of the importance of our campaign.
Why is reform needed?
The terms of leases can often prevent necessary energy efficiency improvements going ahead. That might be because the lease terms make it difficult for a freeholder (building owner) to share the costs of whole building insulation improvements with individual flat owners. Or it might be because the lease terms prevent a flat owner from making any sort of improvement inside their flat – even when that’s important insulation upgrades or heating system changes.
This blog from the Association for the Conservation of Energy explains the impact of this problem in much lower levels of retrofit of windows and insulation in flats.
What are our proposed reforms
Our proposed law change would allow freeholders to get on with basic energy efficiency improvements across a block of flats whatever leases say. Individual leaseholders would not be able to simply prevent improvements across a block of flats because they don’t want to pay their share. At the same time our proposals would protect leaseholders from unreasonable costs: freeholders would only be able to get on with cost-effective energy efficiency improvements.
Similarly our proposals would allow individual flat owners to install energy efficiency upgrades whatever their lease says. One shocking feature of current rules is that freeholders can be obliged by the terms of leases to prevent reasonable energy saving adaptations inside flats, even if the improvement would have no impact on the wider building. Again our proposed law change would protect wider interests: flat owners would only have the freedom to make alterations where doing so will have no significant impact on the other flats in their block.
You can read a longer version of our policy proposals here.