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Communal Heating Regulations

What are the communal heating regulations?

These new regulations have come out the Government’s desire to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.  A laudable aim!

But how will it affect private landlords?  Well, for many of us – it won’t. Landlords of self-contained property with an individual meter will not be affected.

However, those landlords responsible for paying communal heating and hot water costs, before then charging each of their tenants separately will be. In this case the landlord will be seen  as a “Heat supplier” under the new rules.

The changes are likely to affect landlords  of  Houses in Multiple Occupation or a blocks of flats & bedsits where the water and heating is supplied by a communal heat source governed and paid for by the landlord, therefore making the landlord the “Heat supplier”.

“Heat suppliers” are defined in the legislation as a person who supplies and charges for the supply of heating, cooling or hot water to a “final customer” ( in this case their tenants ) through either “communal heating” or “a district heat network”

The exact details of these new regulations are contained in the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014

Some landlords and property management companies may find these new arrangement may not sit well with existing tenancy or lease provisions, which stipulate that individual tenants are required to make a pro-rata contribution to heating bills or costs.  This is something to bare in mind. It might be that tenanancies and leases will need to be amended in light of these changes.

Landlords with energy meters already installed

From 31st December landlords must ensure any individual meters already installed are accurate and that billing is in accordance with the provisions of the new regulations.

Notification requirements on a landlord

Where a landlord is classed as a ‘heat supplier’, as in the case of a House in Multiple Occupation or blocks of bedsits /flats, then the new regulations require them to notify the National Measurement & Regulation Office (NMRO) by 31 December 2015. Any notification will last for four years.  Previously the notification was to be made by the 31st of April 2015, but  presumably, the notification period has been extended to avoid any controversy during the election period.

To give notice, here’s the  notification form under regulation 3 of the of The Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014.

Alternatively, it’s possible just to email the NMRO with the required information at this email address: heatnotifications@nmro.gov.uk

The regulations will lead on to a possible communal heating viability assessment. These have a deadline of 31st December 2016. The viability assessment will consider the feasibility of installing meters to monitor individual hot water and heating consumption.

If the installation of individual meters is considered not to be practical then a further additional assessment must be made into the viability of alternative steps, for example the installation of thermostatic radiator valves and a hot water meter.  Any action deemed reasonable would be required to be carried out by the end of 2016 and  once installed, they need to be continuously operated, maintained and periodically inspected.  Where installations have not been made, then further viability assessments and reports need to be repeated every 4 years.

Why have the communal heating regulations come in?

Any question about the origins of these new rules can be quickly answered by looking at the language in the legislation.  The constant references to Member States and directives gives away the fact that these regulations, like 90% of our laws & regulations come out from Brussels. The European Parliament aim is to ensure that all consumers becomer more geared to more considered energy usage.

What happens if a landlord doesn’t comply communal heating regulations?

Failure to comply with the new regualtion is a criminal offence, punishable with a £5000 fine. The legislation has already come into force but the requirement to notify has now been put back to December 31st 2015.  The regulations also give the National Measurement Office (NMO) broad powers to impose civil sanctions including issuing a compliance notice and enforcement undertaking to pay a non-compliance penalty.

Key points on communal heating regulations:

  • The legislation will not affect landlords of  self-contained property with independentown heating source.
  • Landlords of HMO, bedsits blocks of flats with a shared heating source may be affected by the new regulations.
  • Landlord who currently use meters to measure heating costs for their tenants will need to ensure that they meet the new standards for accuracy.
  • Affected landlords will need to notify the National Measurement & Regulation Office (NMRO) by 31 December 2015. This notification will last for four years.
  • Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to £5000.
  • By December 31st 2016 a report needs to have been completed to see whether it is viable and feasible to have individual metering for heating and hot water.  If this is not possible then alternative devices may be required to be installed.

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