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Will green mortgages encourage landlords to improve energy efficiency?

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Landlords could get preferential treatment when applying for mortgages if their properties are energy efficient, as lenders begin to launch new green products to the market.  

This week, Paragon Bank launched a new range of buy-to-let mortgages which offer lower-deposit options to landlords whose properties have an Energy Performance Certificate rating between A and C.

It is offering mortgages with 20 per cent deposits to portfolio landlords who fit in to this bracket – less than the 25 per cent minimum that those with less energy efficient properties must put down.

Going green: Landlords who upgrade their properties to make them more energy efficient are being offered mortgage incentives, including lower fees and deposits

Going green: Landlords who upgrade their properties to make them more energy efficient are being offered mortgage incentives, including lower fees and deposits 

The five-year fixed rate is 3.99 per cent for a self-contained property and 4.19 per cent for an HMO, the latter of which is market-leading. 

Both are fee-free and come with £350 cashback, and they are available for both purchase and remortgage.

Paragon, a specialist lender, said it wanted to encourage landlords to invest in greener homes and increase the proportion of A-C rated properties in the market.

‘Lenders are offering these products to show that they are supporting environmental concerns,’ says David Longhurst, director at broker Connaught Private Finance.

‘With developers also now working to build greener houses it is only natural that they would then follow suit.’

So is the new loan offering enough of a money-saving incentive?  

Landlords with self-contained properties would probably be able to access an equivalent non-green labelled product with a better rate, but Paragon’s fee-free offer could be enticing. 

‘The equivalent non-green labelled product would cost less, around 3.5 per cent,’ says Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients. 

‘But the Paragon rate benefits from no product fee and a free valuation, whereas alternatives could have arrangements fees of between £1,000 and 2 per cent.’ 

The cost of carrying out renovations to improve a home's energy efficiency means that, even with mortgage incentives, costs might not stack up for landlords

The cost of carrying out renovations to improve a home’s energy efficiency means that, even with mortgage incentives, costs might not stack up for landlords 

Under Government proposals, homes in the private rented sector will need a minimum EPC rating of C for new tenancies by 2025, and all homes in the sector will require that rating by 2028. 

The number of green products on the market is growing as landlords rush to get up to speed. 

Foundation Home Loans has launched a Green Reward Remortgage, which has a higher minimum deposit requirement of 25 per cent. It has a five-year fixed rate of 3.75 per cent, a and is available whether the property is held in a personal name or via a limited company.

It has a 0.75 per cent arrangement fee, which is lower than the lenders’ usual charge, and offers £750 cash back up to a loan size of £1m. 

Like the Paragon mortgages, it is also available exclusively to landlords with properties that have EPC ratings from A to C. 

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Paragon also launched a Green Further Advance product in February, which is designed to help landlords carry out upgrades to properties with EPC ratings of D or lower. 

However, landlords must have been accepted for a Government Green Homes Grant in order to apply – and that scheme has now been axed.

Richard Rowntree, Paragon Bank’s managing director of mortgages, says: ‘Landlords have made great strides in adding more energy efficient homes to the private rented sector – or upgrading properties to C or above standard – over the past decade. 

‘However, more needs to be done as the Government moves towards its net zero carbon target by 2050 and landlords have a key role to play in that.

‘Our new range of products at 80 per cent loan-to-value for homes with an energy rating of C or above will be an incentive for landlords to add energy efficient homes to the sector, benefiting tenants through lower energy bills and the environment through reduced consumption.’

Lenders’ motives may not be wholly altruistic, however, as there are signs that the Government could start to put pressure on mortgage companies to improve the energy efficiency of the homes they lend on.

Mortgage lenders may soon be required to track and annually disclose the average Energy Performance Certificate rating of the properties they lend against.

Landlords have been told that their lets must have an EPC rating of at least C by 2028. Older properties will be most in need of improvements to get them up to that grade

Landlords have been told that their lets must have an EPC rating of at least C by 2028. Older properties will be most in need of improvements to get them up to that grade 

The Government could then use this information to publish ‘lender league tables’ based on the average EPC ratings within their portfolios.   

If more lenders start to offer incentives to landlords with better EPC ratings, this could lead to reduced rates in future. 

There are currently about 29 million homes in the UK, of which 19 million have an EPC lower than C, according to the Government’s Climate Change Committee.  

Fitting loft, under floor or cavity wall insulation; upgrading to double or triple glazed windows; draught proofing and hot water tank insulation are just some examples of improvements that can boost an EPC rating.

Lenders have already offered incentives to home buyers with energy efficient properties for some time, and brokers say that this could be replicated in the buy-to-let sphere.  

‘A number of lenders in the owner-occupier world already offer more keenly-priced mortgage rates for greener or more efficient EPC-rated properties,’ says Harris.

‘It was only a matter of time before this was replicated in the buy-to-let sector.

‘Green finance and green mortgages have been rising up the agenda for the past few years, and we expect this to increasingly be the case.’

Upgrading their properties specifically to get a better mortgage deal might not always make financial sense for landlords, however. 

Matt Coulson, director at broker Heron Financial, says: ‘Existing property owners could invest in improved insulation or new windows, but the overall financial gains are small, in terms of securing a more favourable mortgage rate.

‘The real gain here is that all of these changes and incentives add up to making a difference to the environment and our move towards net zero.’ 

Energy efficiency for its own sake is something that many landlords may struggle to get on board with.  

Jeremy Leaf, North London estate agent, says both landlords and tenants currently have ‘insufficient regard’ for energy efficiency. 

The Climate Change Committee is proposing all UK homes reach an EPC of band C by 2028 in order to help the Government meet its net zero carbon target by 2050

The Climate Change Committee is proposing all UK homes reach an EPC of band C by 2028 in order to help the Government meet its net zero carbon target by 2050

‘It is only when utility charges are higher, for example, that people notice and are likely to change their behaviour,’ he says. 

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the average energy running costs for a home with an EPC rating of C in England are around £300 cheaper than for a band D home, and £740 less than for a band E home. 

Tax incentives are another way that landlords could potentially be brought on board with the green agenda. 

‘In future, landlords will have access to lower rates and fees which will help increase the profitability of the property,’ says Longhurst. 

‘At the same time, the tax regime regarding maintenance versus improvements needs to be reviewed to encourage landlords to do more.’

Although access to better mortgages, the threat of higher bills and tax changes can all sweeten the deal, many landlords are likely to be incentivised most by the potential penalties if they do not upgrade their properties. 

The requirement to be at EPC grade C by 2028 is drawing closer, and those with older or less efficient properties need to be prepared.  

Mortgage lenders going green 

Green mortgages for landlords may only just be getting started, but they have been on the table for homeowners for some time. 

One in five lenders now has a mortgage in their range that offers lower rates for those with certain EPC ratings, according to the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association. 

A further 21 per cent offer mortgages with other financial incentives that encourage borrowers to improve their home’s energy efficiency.

NatWest has launched a green mortgage which offers a discounted interest rate to customers buying a home with an energy efficiency rating of A or B. The discount is usually 0.05 per cent. 

The bank is aiming for half of its mortgage book to have an EPC C rating or above within the next decade. 

Barclays also has a green mortgage offering, which gives buyers a 0.1 per cent discount on their interest rate if they buy a new build property with an EPC rating of A or B. The mortgage must be less than £500,000.  

Other lenders have taken a different approach. Kensington, for example, has launched a green mortgage which pays £1,000 cashback retrospectively to borrowers who make energy efficiency improvements.

In order to qualify for cashback through the eKo mortgage, customers must improve their home’s energy efficiency rating by 10 points based on the standard scoring system used by assessors. The changes must be made within the first year of completion.

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UK property prices are 30% higher than they were in 2007, Zoopla says

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Average property prices across Britain are now 30 per cent higher than they were at the peak of the market in 2007, before the global financial crash.

Buyers are paying an average of £230,700 for a home, which is the highest on record, according to property portal Zoopla’s latest house price index.

House prices grew by 5.4 per cent in the year to June, but experts at Zoopla said they could start falling as the year draws to an end and the stamp duty holiday and furlough scheme are scrapped.

Price shifts: Average property prices across Britain are now 30% higher than they were at the peak of the market in 2007, according to data from Zoopla

Price shifts: Average property prices across Britain are now 30% higher than they were at the peak of the market in 2007, according to data from Zoopla

While the stamp duty holiday and cheap mortgage deals have given the property market a boost, a severe shortage in stock has also been pushing up prices. 

The number of properties up for sale was around a quarter lower in the first six months of this year than it was at the same point a year ago, Zoopla said.

The stock shortage problem has been exacerbated by a rise in the number of first-time buyers coming to the market, who, of course, have no property to sell.  

Getting more space remains a big draw for many prospective buyers, with demand for houses twice as high as the 2017-19 average, while the popularity of flats has waned. 

Northern Ireland and Wales saw the biggest spike in property prices in the past year, with rises of 8.6 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively. 

For Wales, this represents the highest rate of annual growth for 16 years, with many areas becoming increasingly popular with relocators and second home owners.

Demand for houses has pushed their price tags up, especially in Wales which proved popular with relocators and second home owners

Demand for houses has pushed their price tags up, especially in Wales which proved popular with relocators and second home owners 

Stock matters: The number of homes being put up for sale has failed to keep up with demand

Stock matters: The number of homes being put up for sale has failed to keep up with demand

This was despite the fact that the Welsh land transaction tax holiday, its equivalent of the stamp duty break, did not apply to second home or buy-to-let purchases.

In Wales and England, buyers could save up to £15,000 in tax on house purchases until 30 June. In England, they can still save up to £2,500 until 30 September. 

At a regional level, house price growth was at its highest in the North West (+7.3 per cent) and Yorkshire & the Humber (+6.8 per cent), while London trailed behind with annual house price growth of +2.3 per cent.  

Demand in London is polarised between inner and outer, with demand in outer London running 86 per cent ahead of the 2017-19 average. 

‘This is explained in part by the available housing stock – with larger volumes of houses and properties with outside space’, Zoopla said.

In contrast, demand in inner London is running just 2 per cent above the ‘normal’ market average. 

This is also reflected in the pricing of properties, with London flats, predominantly clustered towards the centre, dipping by 0.5 per cent in the year to June. In contrast, houses have registered growth of 5.6 per cent in the past year. 

Looking at other major cities, Liverpool has performed well as house prices grew by 8.9 per cent in the past year. 

Rochdale, Bolton and Hastings all saw property prices increase over 9 per cent during the period, while Belfast, Manchester and Sheffield saw prices rise more than 7 per cent. 

Sales levels up and down the country are running about 22 per cent higher than they were last year, but buyer demand slipped 9 per cent in the first half of July after the initial phase of the stamp duty holiday ended. 

However, transaction volumes are still around 80 per cent higher than they would normally be at this time of year. 

Your area: A map showing how house prices have been changing up and down Britain

Your area: A map showing how house prices have been changing up and down Britain

Grainne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla, said: ‘Demand is moderating from record high levels earlier this year, but remains significantly up from typical levels, signalling that above average activity levels will continue in the coming months.

‘Demand for houses is still outstripping demand for flats. To a certain extent this trend will have been augmented by the stamp duty holiday, with bigger savings on offer for larger properties – typically houses. 

‘But underneath this, there is a continued drumbeat of demand for more space among buyers, both inside and outside, funnelling demand towards houses, resulting in stronger price growth for these properties.’

She added: ‘Overall buyer demand coupled with constrained supply signal that price growth will continue to rise in the coming months, peaking at around 6 per cent, before falling back to between 4 per cent to 5 per cent by the end of 2021.’ 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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EU pauses legal action against UK over Northern Ireland protocol

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The European Commission has paused legal proceedings against the United Kingdom over the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol in the hope that solutions can be found.

It comes after the UK government called for a “standstill period” in which the EU would not further legal action and the UK would also refrain from unilateral moves.

A European Commission spokesman said in a statement that “in order to provide the necessary space to reflect on these issues and find durable solutions to the implementation of the protocol, we have decided, at this stage, not to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure, started in March”.

Last week the UK’s Brexit minister, David Frost, told the House of Commons there should be a “significant change” in the protocol and that “we cannot go on as we are”.

The commission said the pause in the legal action would be used to consider the UK’s proposals.

“We confirm our readiness to continue to engage with the United Kingdom, also on the suggestions made in the Command Paper, and to consider any proposals that respect the principles of the protocol,” the statement from the commission added.

The Irish Government has also said it will carefully consider the British proposals, which include suggestions that were raised and discussed during the negotiation process.

“We have received a constructive reply from the Commission in response to our request for a standstill on existing arrangements,” a British government spokeswoman said. “We look forward to engaging in talks with the EU in the weeks ahead to progress the proposals in our command paper.

“As we set out in the Command Paper last week, significant changes are needed to ensure the Pprotocol is sustainable for future”

Last week, Mr Frost suggested a tiered system in which goods produced for consumption in Northern Ireland only would not need to be inspected at Irish Sea crossing points, and that goods that were made to standards that equalled those of the EU should be able to circulate freely.

‘Impossible’ steps

Other proposals included abolishing export certification, state aid rules and the oversight of the European Court of Justice, encompassing several steps that are seen as impossible for EU capitals to agree to.

Both Brussels and Dublin are seen to be keen to cool the heat on the issue of Northern Ireland and encourage negotiations to find solutions for any problems through the pathways laid out by the withdrawal agreement and trade deal wherever possible.

The commission warned that it would not renegotiate the protocol, which was negotiated and agreed by both sides as a way to allow Britain to leave the single market and customs union while avoiding the need for checks across the island of Ireland.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson originally praised the deal as a “reasonable, fair outcome” and a “very good deal” for both sides, but his government has since said it has been implemented in a stricter manner than foreseen.

“The EU has sought flexible, practical solutions to overcome the difficulties citizens in Northern Ireland are experiencing regarding the implementation of the protocol – as demonstrated in the package of measures announced by the commission on June 30th,” a commission spokeswoman said.

“While the EU will not renegotiate the protocol, we stand ready to address all the issues arising in the practical implementation of the protocol in a spirit of good faith and co-operation.”

It added that if was essential that “constructive discussions” continue in the coming weeks.

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Cladding repair bill is same as £230k price of this Hertfordshire flat

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When homeowner Sophie Bichener, 29, bought her flat in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, in 2017 for £230,000, she had no idea about the potentially crippling costs that lay ahead.

She moved into the flat just before the fire at Grenfell Tower, in West London, which caused 72 deaths.

Like so many other purchasers, Sophie bought moved into her flat believing that it was safe because it complied with building regulations. 

However, her flat has since deemed to be unsafe in the wake of the Grenfell fire.

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue

Like so many other flat owners affected by fire safety issues, she has been left unable to sell her property, as mortgage lenders will no longer offer loans without fresh proof of safety. 

Her block of flats has been deemed unsafe and fire safety repairs need to be carried out. 

But the bill for the repairs are eye-watering, almost matching what she originally paid for the flat. 

This summer she was quoted £202,077 to fix just her flat, which is not far from the £230,000 that she originally paid for her home.

She understands that some of the £14million-plus costs to fix her block will be met from the Building Safety Fund, but it is not yet known how much financial assistance – if any – she will get.

This leaves her facing the unknown, a situation many flat owners find themselves in through no fault of their own.  

She says it is likely that she will have to relocate during the works for at least a month.

Sophie Bichener, 29, bought her flat in Stevenage, Hertfordshire in 2017 for £230,000, but has since been quoted £202,077 to fix her flat, which has deemed to be unsafe

Sophie Bichener, 29, bought her flat in Stevenage, Hertfordshire in 2017 for £230,000, but has since been quoted £202,077 to fix her flat, which has deemed to be unsafe

Her block is home to 73 flats spread across 14 storeys. It is above 18 metres and had problems with combustible cladding and missing fire breaks.

It is unknown when the fire safety work is expected to begin as the Government has yet to confirm whether it will provide funding for her block.

But once the work does start, it is suggested that it could take 52 weeks, meaning Sophie would be effectively living on what would look like a building site for a year.

The block has already paid for six months of a waking watch at a cost of £600 a month per flat. Those payments stopped following the installation of new fire alarms.

Sophie told MailOnline Property: ‘We have a supportive network of leaseholders and so you can take time out from dealing with it. However, being in lockdown and in the flat twenty-four seven means I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure this out.

‘Knowing that when you go to work that money has already been spent has been disheartening.

‘We just have to do what we can. It is easier for me to talk about it now, but there are people I know who are suicidal. While the Government is playing ‘who is to pay’, leaseholders are struggling to survive.’

‘We have had to put our life on hold. I can’t spend any money as I know I shall have a bill at the end of all of this, although I don’t know how much that will be.

‘I’d like to get married and have children, but simply cannot afford to contemplate that at the moment.’

Campaigners have called ministers of ignoring cladding victims’ screams for help.

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, said: ‘Ministers have betrayed leaseholders like Sophie. Ignoring their screams for help, dismissing their dreams and refusing to listen.

‘Leaseholders need practical support, not more weasel words and I will continue to fight for people like Sophie.

‘Leaseholders are not to blame, but they are facing devastating mental health and financial costs as they are left to pay more in remediating their flats, than they are now worth. It is a tragic market failure and we must step in as a government to support them.’

It follows an announcement by Robert Jenrick that neither leaseholders nor taxpayers should pay for dangerous cladding to be removed. 

He said that the law will be changed retrospectively to give homeowners 15 years to take action against their developers for shoddy workmanship.  

A MHCLG spokesman responded, saying: “Building owners should make buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders – and we will introduce a new legal requirement for owners of high-rise buildings to prove they have tried all routes to cover the cost of fixing their buildings.

“We are processing applications to the Building Safety Fund as quickly as possible – and we have been clear that we will fund the removal of dangerous cladding from high rise building where remediation is necessary.

“Our approach strikes the right balance in our continuing commitment to protecting leaseholders and being fair to taxpayers – while reassuring lenders that where cladding remediation is needed, costs will not be a barrier or mean that mortgage payments become unmanageable.”

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