Coordinating MEES pilot schemes across England
Helping local authorities fulfil their MEES obligations
Project duration: November 2018 ongoing
CSE has been commissioned to co-ordinate a second phase of pilot studies looking into how local authorities can best implement the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) regulations within the domestic Private Rented Sector (PRS).
The regulations have been introduced using a phased approach, initially stating that from April 2018 landlords of all privately rented domestic or non-domestic properties must ensure that their properties must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of at least E before granting a new or renewed tenancy.
From April 2020 these requirements were then extended to all privately rented domestic properties, even where there has been no change in tenancy arrangements, and will extend further to all privately rented non-domestic properties from April 2023.
The pilot studies are being undertaken on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to help develop better understanding of the issues around enforcement, improve implementation and help future policy making.
CSE coordinated the first one-year phase of seven pilot studies across eight English local authorities: Eden District Council, Newcastle City Council, Liverpool City Council, Cambridge and Peterborough City Councils (as a joint pilot signed off by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority), Oxford City Council, Bristol City Council and Cornwall Council. All pilots addressed MEES in the domestic private rental sector, with Cornwall, Oxford, Bristol and Newcastle additionally considering enforcement of the regulations within the non-domestic private rental sector.
During the project, CSE monitored progress, gathered insights from each pilot, reported to BEIS and ran several workshops for the local authorities to share their experiences.
CSE’s Martin Holley presented the final report to BEIS in March 2020, providing a themed description of each pilot’s activities and lessons learned with a summary of key findings for each.
In parallel with the final months of the phase one pilot schemes, a draft MEES enforcement toolkit was developed by CSE with BEIS support, drawing on findings and example materials developed as outputs of the pilot study.
The second phase of pilot studies has just kicked off with a new set of 12 local authorities, geographically spread across England and Wales, and will focus on the privately rented domestic sector.
The aim is to test and develop the draft toolkit across different types of authorities as well as further explore the extent to which the toolkit can help streamline process development work, provide off-the-shelf tools to embed within business-as-usual practices and minimise any additional resources that may be needed.
The final toolkit will then be shared with all local authorities in England and Wales to help in their work enforcing the regulations.
Key findings from Phase 1 pilots
Key challenges encountered by the pilots, and some of the solutions tested include:
- Property and landlord identification: Issues with matching EPC data against a wide range of datasets made it difficult to identify the private rented sector properties and landlords of interest. The pilots trialed a range of solutions including the development of predictive data analysis algorithms followed up with door-to-door visits on a representative sample output to check for accuracy.
- Data privacy: During the initial stages, GDPR compliance was identified as a potential barrier to data sharing across local authority teams for landlord and property identification purposes. In most cases the pilots were able to invoke relevant legislation, such as Section 237 of the Housing Act 2004, to help navigate these barriers, but in some cases data sharing agreements were also developed.
- Delegation of powers: lower tier authorities, such as Oxford and Cambridge City Councils, recognizing the interaction between EPC and MEES regulations and where enforcement powers lie, decided to seek delegation of those powers from their respective County bodies so that they could integrate enforcement of the two sets of regulations. This required collaborative working to gain sign off at Cabinet level and by legal teams on both sides, with supporting data sharing agreements in place.
- Local Authority team structures: pilots found that new ways to facilitate cross-team working were required which suited their individual organisational structure. For example, there was a need for housing teams and Trading Standards to collaborate and pool skills common to MEES enforcement. Newcastle City Council was able to capitalise on the fact that their unitary authority environmental health and trading standards teams are within the same directorate, are already co-located and have existing practices in place to share intelligence and coordinate enforcement activity.
- Interpreting legislation: in setting up enforcement processes, all pilots reported to varying degrees that sections of the MEES legislation are complex, particularly where the regulations intersect with other existing legislation. In some cases this resulted in officers having to engage their own legal advice services to develop internal guidance and agree interpretations of the regulatory requirements.
All pilots completed the study having successfully identified groups of domestic properties/landlords most likely to be in breach of the regulations, putting in place their in-house procedures and with most also progressing to compliance and enforcement activities.
Work on the non-domestic sector was mainly limited to the preparatory set-up stages of developing techniques for PRS property/landlord identification and setting up enforcement processes.
As part of Phase 1, CSE also ran the Bristol pilot study in partnership with Bristol City Council, Shelter and CHAS Housing Advice Service (Bristol).