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It's a win-win: smart meters in the Private Rented Sector

30th March 2021
Kate Faulkner, Property Market Analyst and Commentator

The Private Rented Sector is continuing to grow and change dramatically. The Renter Reform Bill plans to abolish Section 21 and the grounds for landlord possession and landlords will be expected to do more to increase the energy efficiency of their properties under recent government proposals. Not only will landlords have to adapt to these changes but tenants too. Smart meters can support both renters and landlords to become more energy efficient and help us all transition to net zero.

In the late '90s, much of the rental accommodation was still viewed as 'temporary digs' and it was often a pretty miserable place to live. Today, the PRS is a completely different landscape as standards have been raised significantly, particularly since 2007 and the last recession. Landlords should not be letting damp flats or pokey rooms in large houses and, if they're caught breaking one of the many laws now in place to make sure tenants stay safe and comfortable, they can face steep fines or worse.

So today, with privately rented property being seen as a home for years, rather than a stop-gap, it's no surprise that many tenants want to do what they can to make it their own, and a home they love coming back to.

One key step that many renters and landlords may not have thought about is installing a smart meter. The government has 'net zero' targets and enabling this solution can help everyone play their part. Smart meters reduce energy wastage and can help drive usage away from peak times, allowing more energy from renewables to be used.

Kate Faulkner

Although tenants and landlords might be confused about rights and responsibilities with meter switching, that's easy to explain. And it's worth understanding because, with many more people renting than ever before, this is one of those areas that can result in a genuine win for all.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is more-or-less out of the hands of landlords. That's because it's the bill payer (usually the tenant) that has to ask for a smart meter to be fitted and the landlord should not unreasonably prevent an installation. Even more surprisingly, because the meters 'belong' to the energy company and are therefore not part of the landlord's gas and electrical safety responsibility (unless something is going wrong!), no checks or certificates are required when switching from the current meter. But, it's always best to advise your landlord in writing that you have requested a smart meter to be fitted.

As well as benefiting tenants, making it easier for them to understand what energy is being used and how, smart meters also benefit the landlord and managing agent.

Probably my favourite reason to fit a smart meter is that it sends actual readings so you don't keep getting charged for an estimate, which can often result in paying for energy you haven't used. This automatic, near real-time reporting can help reduce disputes at the end of tenancies and the smart meters can switch from pre-payment and card back to ordinary bill payments as tenants come and go.

Even if the property is empty, the meter will still monitor and send accurate readings to the utility company, potentially saving savings on visits by the landlord or agent.

So, while our movement is still restricted over the next few months, one job tenants can do to help themselves - hopefully with the support of their landlord/agent - is switch to a smart meter. And, with energy suppliers installing them at no extra cost, there's no reason not to check out your options. Sharing accurate utility readings can save you time and money, both of which can be enjoyed when we are all allowed out and about a little more.