Legislation needed to ensure energy efficient houses in private rental sector

1 October 2015

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Greater co-operation between Government departments required to ensure energy affordability for those on low income

There is no specific provision in Irish legislation for the improvement of the energy efficiency of private rental accommodation, according to a new study.

Commissioned by the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) the study “Energy Efficiency of Rental Accommodation in Ireland” was carried out by McDowell Purcell Solicitors through the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA).

The study says that while there has been support for the promotion of energy efficiency measures by successive Governments, key to the success of this policy is specific legislation to progressively realise energy efficiency in private rental accommodation.

The study found that in more general terms, physical standards for rental accommodation have been provided for in law since 1992. 

“But one consequence of the gap in legislation is that many households in energy poverty do not own their own dwellings and are therefore less likely to benefit from measures designed to enhance the energy performance of dwellings.” said John-Mark McCafferty, SVP Head of Social Justice and Policy.

The study acknowledges that under the Government’s Construction 2020 programme there is a working group, which will investigate the feasibility of introducing minimum thermal efficiency standards for rental property.

PILA, in conjunction with Aideen Ryan, Partner, McDowell Purcell, stewarded the pro bono referral that led to law firm McDowell Purcell carrying out the study. 

Noeline Blackwell, Director General of FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres), of which PILA forms part, said the result was, “a highly innovative use of legal analysis to audit legislation. It has identified for SVP that there is no applicable legislation in this area and that this has consequences for poor people in Ireland. As a legal rights body, PILA is uniquely positioned to interact with both worlds of social justice and legal action and is proud to be associated with this initiative.” 

David McKechnie, Associate at McDowell Purcell, managed the team researching and producing this paper. He outlined the importance of pro bono work for the firm and the benefits of working with PILA:

“McDowell Purcell views pro bono work as an integral part of Corporate Social Responsibility and is delighted to have worked with PILA on this important study. Through working with PILA, we were confident that any project undertaken would be satisfying a genuine and worthy need. We therefore had no hesitation in committing to this project to assist St Vincent de Paul with its work in this important area.”

John-Mark McCafferty says that the study also highlights the fact that greater co-operation between the Departments of Environment and Social Protection with the Department of Energy is necessary to ensure energy affordability for people on low incomes

“There also needs to be appropriate incentives to provide positive change for tenants and viable tenancies for landlords, while securing both the supply and affordability of such housing. 

“Previous research by SVP found that the inability to afford adequate warmth (energy poverty) is caused by various factors, including inadequate income and living in homes with poor energy efficiency.

“While improved energy efficiency will not take those families with inadequate incomes out of energy poverty, it will make a big difference to their budget, the comfort levels in their homes and will enhance their health and wellbeing.” he said.

The study examined the legislation relevant to minimum rental standards; building regulations; EU Legislation and Current government policy. It also includes a summary of the improved changes to specifications in building regulations Part 1 in relation to dwellings. 

The full study is available at:


Notes for editors:

Public Interest law Alliance (PILA)

PILA is a public interest law network that seeks to engage the legal community and civil society in using the law to advance social change in Ireland. It is a project of FLAC and facilitates the collaboration process from helping to identify issues where legal help is needed through resourcing appropriate legal partners to ensure an effective result.

McDowell Purcell solicitors

A long established corporate law firm which was founded in 1898 McDowell Purcell is based in The Capel Building, Mary’s Abbey, Dublin 7.

McDowell Purcell not only provides the full range of corporate legal services but has also developed specialist practice areas, including public and regulatory law, renewable energy, employment and pensions.

Society of St Vincent de Paul

The Society of St Vincent de Paul has been in Ireland for over 170 years and works with a diverse range of people who experience poverty and exclusion. 

Through person-to-person contact, the SVP is committed to respecting the dignity of those they assist and fostering self-respect. Its 11,000 volunteer members assure confidentiality at all times and endeavour to establish relationships based on trust and friendship.

The SVP is also committed to identifying the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Ireland and, in solidarity with poor and disadvantaged people, to advocate and work for the changes required to create a more just and caring society.