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‘I spent £50,000 to hit net zero targets – but I needn’t have bothered’

michael foster
Surrey landlord Michael Foster says he was pushed to sell by the ‘uncertainty’ over EPC regulations - David Rose

Jonathan Rolande spent £50,000 upgrading his buy-to-let empire to comply with looming net zero rules.

He began overhauling his properties after the Government announced plans to require all rental homes to meet minimum energy efficiency requirements by 2025.

Mr Rolande, who owns more than 100 properties, is among homeowners and landlords who have spent thousands of pounds ahead of looming regulatory changes – only to find out crucial deadlines will now be scrapped after Rishi Sunak announced the watering down of a raft of flagship green initiatives on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister said minimum energy efficiency requirements for landlords and homeowners would be abandoned levels for properties, pointing to the costs of upgrading homes which is likely to be passed on as higher rents to tenants.

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The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will also be pushed back five years to 2035.

On top of this homeowners installing new boilers and heat pumps will be able to claim more in government grants, up to £7,500, and a new exemption for the poorest households will mean they don’t need to switch at all.

Mr Sunak insisted the Government was still committed to Net Zero by 2050, but said he wanted to “bring the people with us”.

Mr Rolande, 53, from Worthing in West Sussex said the pushing back on incoming rule changes was welcome but said he was annoyed about spending money to meet rules which are now no longer going to be enforced.

He said he had already taken steps to insulate lofts, replace boilers with energy efficient models and change light bulbs.

He said: “From a business point of view, it’s money we’ve spent unnecessarily. But over the last 10 years, we’ve got used to the rollercoaster of this Government – things changing and having to put up with it, really rolling with the punches.”

“Most improvements make absolutely no financial sense for the landlord,” he said. “It’s the tenant who benefits and even then it’s very, very minor.”

‘Net zero forced me to sell up – and now they’re rowing back’

For some landlords, the changes in regulations have come too late to keep them from selling their homes.

Michael Foster, 64, from Guildford in Surrey, has sold three properties in the past year and plans on selling most of his remaining portfolio of 10 properties.

“With rising interest rates and regulations, there is a huge pressure on landlords just to get out,” he said.

He said he was pushed to sell by the “uncertainty” over EPC regulations, combined with other growing red tape, tax changes and rate rises.

He began his business in 1994 with the view of passing it on to his children, but he said he was increasingly frustrated by red tape.

Chris Norris, policy director the National Residential Landlords Association, said many landlords had “invested heavily” to try and get ready for the changes.

He said: “If there’s backtracking now, it adds to the chaos in the sector and to the uncertainty around what landlords have got to do.”

He added many had already sold inefficient rental properties to avoid the expense of incoming efficiency requirements.

The Government previously said it intended to force landlords to have Energy Performance Certificate ratings of at least a C by 2025 for newly let properties, and by 2028 for existing lets.

‘I listened to the Government and bought a heat pump, but it’s still not as good as my log burner’

It is not just landlords who are left in the lurch. Mortgage borrowers had been warned that they would be held to the same standards by 2030.

Pensioner Richard Williams, 70, spent £16,000 in 2019 installing a heat pump and new radiators in his 1870 two-bedroom detached house, ahead of a looming ban on new gas boilers.

He said: “I wanted to go for a heat pump because I wanted to future-proof the house. I thought I’d like to have an environmentally friendly heating system.”

But, despite investing in the burgeoning green technology early, he said the heat pump struggles to warm his home properly and that he often uses his woodburner instead when temperatures plummet.

Mr Williams said: “I am not totally disillusioned but I am also not totally happy with it. That’s not a solution, is it? Buying a heat pump for £16,000 and then using a woodburner.

“There were times when I really regretted it, when I was quite despondent about it.”

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Have you made eco upgrades for your home only for incoming rules to be pushed back? Write to money@telegraph.co.uk with your story.