With apocalyptic warnings of the Gulf Stream collapse, which recent headlines indicate could be as early at 2025 without carbon reductions, it may seem impossible to stem the tide. Thankfully, further reading puts this somewhere between 2025 and 2075! Even previous climate change naysayers have now agreed that yes, climate change is a thing.
Everyone will need to do their bit to reduce carbon. Be that from considering the sustainability of our food sources to how we heat our homes. The property industry has a huge part to play in this too. Planning applications, for both residential and commercial use are on the rise and provide an opportunity to ensure that new buildings are built as sustainably as possible, both in terms of the construction and the longevity of the building.
Existing buildings will need to comply with Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards and the current goal for these is to be at least a B rating by 2030. The rating is only E at the moment so big strides will need to be made to achieve this. It is estimated that 85% of commercial buildings will be affected.
Improvements will need to be done sympathetically so as not to adversely affect the character of the building. The owner of a commercial property who is committed to reducing their environmental impact is able to carry out whatever improvement works they require to their property and indeed a state of the art building is likely to command higher rents. This all comes at a cost and owners should carefully check the wording of their leases (where their buildings are tenanted) to establish whether they can recoup any of the cost from the tenant. In the case of major works the lease should also be checked to establish whether these can be carried out (e.g. does the landlord have a right to erect scaffolding, if needed).
What can tenants do? A tenant, unless they have a lease of a whole building, is unlikely to be able to do anything to the main structure. They will only have responsibility for their part of the building. Generally speaking most works will require the landlord to consent and in all likelihood that consent cannot be withheld or delayed – this does, of course, depend upon the wording of the lease. This will have an impact on costs – the tenant having to pay their own and the landlord’s costs for this consent and any monitoring and sign off by a surveyor that the landlord may require.
Making buildings more sustainable generally have other benefits beyond simply reducing carbon footprints. Making them nicer places to work could reduce sickness, both physical and mental, increase productivity and improve employee retention. It’s a win, win!
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*This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.