NORTH-EAST landlords are urged to prepare for new energy efficiency rules, which come into effect from the start of next month.

The message follows Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) introduced to make buyers and tenants more aware of the energy cost and environmental impact associated with a building.

Usually containing a letter and a number together with a list of possible improvements (Recommendations), the rating scale runs from A to G (A is the most energy efficient). Under the Government’s Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), a residential let property must achieve an E EPC rating as a minimum.

From April 1, the regulations will apply to all existing tenancies as well as new agreements and landlords are being urged to be ready to ensure their rental properties comply.

Changes to EPC regulations are part of a government led initiative targeting energy inefficient housing in England and Wales in a wider strategy to tackle climate change.

It is estimated that around seven per cent of properties in the private rented sector currently hold the lowest EPC ratings according to the Energy Saving Trust.

County Durham estate agency Vickers & Barrass says there are possible grounds for an exemption including cost.

If after implementing improvements costing £3,500 including VAT and the property is still unable to achieve a target EPC rating of E or better a landlord can register for an exemption on the Private Rented Sector (PRS) Exemption Register.

While welcoming an initiative designed to raise standards, County Durham estate agency Vickers & Barrass fears that many local landlords may decide not to implement the required improvements and instead sell their properties, reducing further the options for hard pressed tenants searching for accommodation.

Edd Forster, sales manager at Vickers & Barrass, said: “New regulations are always a question of balance for landlords, who have faced continued change and increasing costs over the last few years.

“We could see more landlords exit the market in the months ahead, leading to a lack of suitable rental accommodation at a time when there is a desperate shortage of stock to let.

“They may look to evict tenants where the property falls below the minimum requirement of an E, so they can implement improvements or make the decision to sell.”

With only a few weeks until the changes take effect, Landlords whose properties are currently F or G EPC rated need to start planning improvements now to be ready for the deadline, Mr Forster added.

“Landlords should check the recommendations in the EPC and obtain quotations for the suggested works. It may be worth instructing an assessor to undertake a new EPC assessment if improvements have been undertaken or it is considered the previous assessment was not correct.

“Assessment techniques have improved and may produce a more accurate rating which is above the minimum standard.”