I know: it’s August. High time indeed to be talking about insulation!
One of the biggest conflicts of interest in the LL-tenant relationship is investment in insulation. The expenditure is all on the LL’s side, and the financial (and physical) benefit all on the tenant’s side. There is a certain amount of information available about a property’s insulation before a contract is signed, but in practice, a tenant is not able to use such information to gauge the value of the contract before it is too late (and that “too late” can be long before a contract is signed if a letting agent takes a “non-refundable deposit”!).
Yet this is one of the biggest variables in how you, a tenant, will end up feeling in your own home.
How can you avoid bad insulation in the first place?
- Try to choose an area whose housing stock either tends to be well-insulated or which you know and can deal with. For example, I used to live in a Victorian/Edwardian area, so accumulated stocks of insulating curtain linings and secondary double glazing for sash windows.
- When viewing houses, ask the existing tenants and ask neighbours (whom you may know socially, given that you’re likely to be moving within the same area) what their own houses are like.
- Study the EPC guides given in property details.
- If you’re REALLY a techie person, and have stalkerish tendencies, rent an infra-red camera and trawl the streets of your prospective neighbourhood! I must admit I would have LOVED to have done this with one of our old houses, which had the most shoddily-insulated extension outside the corrugated iron shed section of a DIY store. (If you don’t understand why this would help, read this news story about how a snowless roof gave away the presence of a cannabis farm!)
Having ended up with terrible insulation, how can you deal with it, as a tenant?
As a tenant, it is absolutely not your duty to invest in insulation. LLs are responsible for capital investments such as windows, loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. However, as mentioned above, the “market” situation is such that LLs do not directly or immediately reap the financial benefit of such investments. This is particularly the case for “accidental landlords” who may be letting their property because of negative equity.
If you do invest in insulation (or, indeed, in anything immovable), you must do so in the knowledge that you may lose/ or have to leave behind that investment.
So, how to insulate?
- Floors: carpets and rugs. It’s a bit of a pain to keep an inventory of rugs, and it makes keeping the place clean harder, but sometimes it really is essential for cosiness.
- Windows: I’ve posted before about this, but secondary double glazing film is very effective, even if it is ugly (and sadly, temporary. You will need to re-apply it every year).
- Windows: Blackout curtain lining (mentioned passim in my ‘blog, because it is SO ESSENTIAL and SO MULTIPURPOSE). You may also like to fit quilts or felt hangings with loops, so you can use them in windows or for…
- Walls: If you have chosen your household stock of rugs, curtains and wall-hangings mindfully, you should be able to use all of these – and particularly rugs and quilts/ wall-hangings – to line your walls. This has the added benefits of covering “rental” magnolia paint and really lining your own home with something which is yours.
- Doors: For draughts under a front door, you will need a “sausage” draught excluder and/or a draught strip. Draught strips can also be fitted around a door, or, indeed a window. You can take your “sausage” with you, though, so at least that won’t be a wasted investment! Nor will a door curtain, temporarily hung in your doorway with a tension rod.
- Pre-existing holes in the wall or floor should be dealt with by a vociferous complaint in the first instance, followed by complaints to your council’s Environmental Health team, and finally giving notice! If you have the paper trail described above, that is a long-term solution, but you may also like to fix the situation for yourself in the short term by using an expanding foam filler on the hole.
Insulation for all seasons
It’s worth mentioning that blackout lining on curtains will also reflect outside heat on a sun-facing window during the hotter months, so really is a good investment.
[A note about links: I’m trying to link to various different providers, in a bid to be unbiased. I haven’t been paid for any of these links. Any advertising you spot on my ‘blog page is generated automatically by WordPress or its ad partner(s).]