Why MEES is Changing Behaviour Two Years Ahead of the Compliance Date
The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) regulations will make it unlawful from April 2018 to let buildings in England and Wales which do not achieve a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of E. This will initially apply to new lettings and renewals only, but from 2023 will apply to all existing leases as well.
John Alker, Director of Policy and Communications at the UKGBC stated that MEES is “The single most significant piece of legislation to affect our existing building stock in a generation”. I would certainly agree with this on a number of levels.
But doesn’t MEES have its flaws?
Firstly, the minimum standard is based on an EPC rating but as we know, EPCs are renowned for their lack of correlation to actual energy performance and that, as a commoditised service, quality diminished significantly putting into question the accuracy and usefulness of many EPCs. Note that the Government is aware of this issue and has entered into a consultation process designed to improve quality assurance of EPC assessments.
Secondly, EPC calculations are linked to building regulations, so as regulations get tougher, so does the ability to achieve a decent rating making MEES a moving target. Many have suggested that EPCs produced pre 2011, if re-modelled now, could be up to two ratings lower. If correct, this could potentially see in excess of 30% of building stock, at risk to 2018 regulations.
However, this is not what we are experiencing, primarily due to the poor quality of many existing EPCs. As an example, EVORA recently re-evaluated shopping centre units with an EPC ratings E – G, where the rental value of these units exceeded 75% of the total ERV of the scheme. The original EPCs were of poor quality, as shown through the use of defaults. By completing accurate EPCs, EVORA was able to secure at least a D rating and therefore mitigating MEES risks for the next 10 years.
It is also not yet clear what the future trajectory will be for the minimum standard, although it is possible that this will be raised come 2023. This makes refurbishment planning challenging for landlords, who generally work on ten year cycles.
Finally, there are a number of exemptions, not least the requirement to have the consent all of tenants, which is surely a get out of jail free card for any landlord.
MEES and Behavioural Change
Despite these flaws and challenges we are seeing a significant change in behaviour well in advance of the 2018 compliance date. This shouldn’t be a surprise. MEES has the real potential to adversely impact many key value drivers including occupancy, rental growth, liquidity, cost of finance and yield on sale.
Greater Rigour Required
As such, it is focusing minds to ensure EPCs are carried out professionally and with rigour, whilst taking steps to understand portfolio risk supported by an appropriate strategy to mitigate.
As an example, more sophisticated energy modelling is being undertaken using Dynamic Simulation software packages to ensure the accuracy of EPCs and to better understand the opportunities to improve both energy performance and the EPC rating. We are currently supporting Hines on a major refurbishment in Canary Wharf, providing energy simulation modelling to ensure the design intent improves both the energy efficiency of the building as well as the EPC rating.
Understanding your MEES Risk
In addition, we are regularly using sophisticated sustainability management software such as SIERA on behalf of our clients, to analyse EPC ratings, lease events and ERVs together to understand and profile MEES risk.
Collaboration is going to be Essential
Ironically, rather than being a get out of jail free card, lack of consent by the occupiers, possibly due to business interruption issues, could impact on asset management plans to improve the overall EPC rating to ensure future marketability and to prevent possible price chipping on sale. This is also an issue for FRI assets where there is no legal right to gain access, but improvements may be necessary to achieve a minimum rating, prior to lease expiry to enable the property to be marketed to minimise the risk of void periods. These issues will drive the need for greater collaboration between landlord and tenant.
Improvement vs repairing obligations and what about dilapidations…?
Collaboration will also be key if the landlord intends to replace M&E equipment with more energy efficient kit, ahead of the end of its useful life, and is seeking the tenants to share in the costs or to recover fully through the service charge. The cost benefits to the tenants will need to be clearly articulated to get their engagement.
Staying on the theme of replacing kit, this is likely to have an impact on dilapidations where the landlord may require more energy efficient equipment to meet MEES regulations but the issue of improvement vs repairing obligations will arise. Again, collaboration and forward discussions will be key.
New lease terms?
New lease terms (notice my omission of ‘green’ which generally makes tenants and letting agents run a mile) could become the norm, specifically to bar alterations that adversely affect an EPC rating. But policing such terms will be a challenge. Does this, for example, mean that every planned tenant fit-out or even minor alteration, has to be fully modelled to assess the impact on the EPC rating – possibly.
There are many other issues and challenges associated with the impending MEES legislation and whilst it is far from perfect it offers an opportunity to improve the energy efficiency and resilience of your assets and engage in long term communication and collaboration with your tenants. Surely that can’t be a bad thing!
How can EVORA support you?
EVORA can support you in understanding the upcoming MEES regulations, help you profile your MEES risk using our sustainability management software, SIERA and provide professional support in delivering and improving the EPC ratings for your assets.
EVORA is participating in a select group to provide industry guidance to DECC on the future of MEES regulations.
For further information or guidance on MEES please contact Ed Gabbitas: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07557 529 106
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