This month two major announcements have been made to improve the prospects for students in the private rented sector living in cold and expensive to heat housing.
Over a number of years, the Homes fit for Study research has shown how students are suffering from the inadequate standards of housing and the increasing costs of energy to properly heat their privately rented homes. Students have reported the physical, mental and social impact of them living in cold homes which they either can’t afford to heat sufficiently, or are unable to adequately insulate.
NUS is a member of the End Fuel Poverty coalition, a group of organisations who believe that everybody has the right to a warm, dry home that they can afford to heat and power. Last year we responded to a public consultation around the requirements of private landlords to improve the conditions and energy efficiency of their properties, and therefore reduce energy costs for their tenants. Following this input, the government has this month announced that landlords of the coldest properties (those with EPC ratings of F or G) must personally invest up to a maximum of £3,500 to improve their property. This will benefit those students living in England and Wales in the worst of the private sector student accommodation, saving the household an estimated £180 a year.
The second announcement comes from OFGEM, the energy regulator who have created an energy cap per household of £1,137 which will come into force on January 1st, 2019 across the UK. This is not an absolute cap, however, is the maximum a household can be charged with average consumption for their gas and electricity supply, paying by direct debit. It is estimated that the cap will save households with typical energy consumption around £76 per year, and those on the most expensive tariffs saving £120.
Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, said:
“From 1 January, the energy price cap will put an end to customers on default tariffs being overcharged as much as £1 billion for their gas and electricity."
“Consumers who want to cut their bills further should shop around for a better energy deal and while the cap is in place, we will continue our work to make this as easy as possible.”
These announcements help to shift some of the burden of increasing energy prices, although understanding and navigating energy bills and consumption in the home can be confusing and stressful for students in homes of multiple occupancy. To support students in making more informed choices when moving into the privately rented sector, or to better manage their bills when off-campus, the NUS Student Switch Off+ initiative is a free network for any student to receive information on energy and housing issues. Students can take part in competitions and an online webinar, with further workshops taking place at Lancaster University and across Greater Manchester Universities. To join this network sign up online today.