Retrofitting homes and buildings is fundamental to achieving the government’s net zero commitment, something we give extra thought to on World Environment Day on 5 June.
Part of the challenge is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach or clear pathway to get started. Further complexities relate to heritage buildings and how homeowners may go about upgrades, but landlords starting retrofit programmes could begin by collecting data.
The starting point is an audit of premises. That may range from an energy efficiency assessment and identification of appropriate upgrade, to carbon footprint measurement and analysis.
Data collection is key to assess retrofit potential.
The next step is to consider options to fund upgrades, which remains the biggest obstacle to retrofitting. Government retrofit incentives are largely focused on social housing and local authorities but should not be overlooked. For those eligible, significant sums are available.
As well as the funding route, property documents need to be considered. For residential leases, specific wording may be required to enable costs to be passed to tenants (particularly given legislative requirements for costs to be reasonable and justifiable).
Commercial leases are likely to have similar terms regarding reasonableness, and shorter leases may present more of a challenge for cost recovery. Many landlords are looking at other models (eg separate service payments or higher rent in return for a more energy-efficient home) but the risk of non-payment is a barrier to such models.
Establishing a strategy for engagement with residents, stakeholders or occupiers early on is key to minimising the disruption of retrofitting. There are likely to be challenges with access and impact on use of homes and buildings while works are carried out, along with considering whether works are permitted under existing property arrangements.
Hannah Giebus is a solicitor at Trowers & Hamlins