City Council gets preview of energy research findings
Manchester Friends of the Earth went along to the meeting of the City Council’s Neighbourhood Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 13 March. This meeting was intended to address the role of managing agents and letting agents in the private rented sector. Five of the eight committee members attended the meeting, along with Cllr Nigel Murphy of the Executive and three officers.
We had the opportunity to show the councillors the main findings of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) research we carried out during the summer of 2013, a week in advance of the publication of the report by MFoE and 10:10 (see http://files.1010global.org/
Firstly, we showed how in spite of the requirement for properties to have their EPCs displayed within seven days of being put on the market, only 40% of properties actually show any information at all, even as little as a letter to show the banding. There was a reply to the point that city centre properties are often gone within a week [giving the landlords/letting agents a perfect excuse not to show EPCs]. We also mentioned that the areas with the best energy ratings, as well as the highest percentage of properties showing EPCs, are the city centre postcodes with their modern, purpose-built buy-to-let flats aimed at business people and the ‘upwardly mobile’. In contrast, those areas where people are in fuel poverty, and really could do with knowing if they are about to rent a snug or draughty house, have much fewer EPCs on display, and those that are, are lower down the scale. This was the point the councillors were most interested in, judging from the number of questions asked (hardly any looked into other aspects of the research).
The other issue was the setup of a compulsory registration scheme for private landlords based on a system recently introduced in the London Borough of Newham. This caused more objections. There was some dispute as to the upfront costs involved (the officer in question said £10 million versus our figure of half that amount). It was stated that Newham has some special conditions which mean their system wouldn’t transplant well to Manchester [these conditions remained unmentioned, but probably had to do with the percentage of rented property in Newham which had previously been owner-occupied, very high compared to Manchester with its buy-to-let developments]. Also, after the meeting, in conversation with the officers it transpired that MCC had already set up a small-scale registration scheme some time ago, confined to Ancoats and Clayton, Bradford and some other eastern wards of the city [where the number of rented properties is relatively few, going by Rightmove]. This had apparently degenerated into an exercise in ‘chasing paper around’ and was of limited use.
Now the report has been published, we have forwarded the link to the committee members who attended, as well as the committee officer Lee Walker, and await their response.