Boost for landlords as solar cuts deemed 'unlawful'

by Daniel Jones

Landlords looking to improve the energy performance of their properties to attract tenants have been handed a boost after the government's decision to cut solar Feed-in Tariff payments was deemed unlawful.

The Court of Appeal yesterday (January 25th) unanimously rejected the government's attempts to overturn last month's High Court ruling, which said its plans to rush through sudden cuts to solar tariff payments are illegal.

Subject to any appeal to the Supreme Court, solar tariff payments will remain at 43.3p/kWh until March 3rd, when they will fall to 21 pence. Given rising energy prices, landlords could still find that solar payments make sense by encouraging cash-conscious renters to sign a tenancy agreement.

"Helping more people to plug into clean British energy will help protect cash-strapped households from soaring fuel bills," explained Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins. He called on the government to take immediate action to protect the solar industry.

"Ministers must abandon plans to tighten the screw on which homes qualify for solar payments - and use the massive tax revenues generated by solar to protect the industry," added Mr Atkins.

Despite the "landmark" victory, some in the property industry are not confident the ruling will have enough of an impact. Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, reckons the judgment offers "little solace" to landlords already forced to scale back their renewable energy investments because of the "confusion" caused by the government.

She added: "The efforts of building owners and occupiers will be central to creating a sustainable built environment; it is vital that these industries are given the market confidence they need to muster a business case for investment in energy efficiency and green technologies as other incentive schemes come on stream."

However, the incentive for landlords to make energy-related investments in properties remains strong and should not be overlooked.

From April 2016, domestic landlords will not be able to unreasonably refuse requests from their tenants to make energy efficiency improvements, where financial support is available such as the Green Deal or the Energy Company Obligation.

Two years after that, all private rented properties will need to be brought up to a minimum energy efficiency standard rating, which the government says is likely to be set at EPC rating E.

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Published on: January 26, 2012

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