Learnings from SECC Research: How to Better Engage Landlords

By Crystal Leaver on

Contractor and Landlord

Landlords have a big role in energy management, and can either ignore it altogether or make upgrades that will reduce both energy usage and tenant energy bills. The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative recently interviewed landlords. Not only do energy upgrades make landlords feel better, but they also can help them compete for new tenants in a market full of newer, better insulated buildings. 

Other times, upgrades in energy efficiency don’t seem worth the cost since the tenant ultimately pays their own energy bills, not the landlord. Landlords in markets where property values are “out of control” may have little incentive to invest in energy efficient upgrades since they have more renters than available properties with “15-20 people who want a place when it goes on the market”.

Timing is a big factor in making improvements, with work taking place at the time of purchasing a property or in between tenants. It can be difficult to get access to a property when it is occupied. However, specific improvements are up to the whim of the landlord, with no specific standard of energy efficiency.

Cost can be another barrier to participation, even with incentives. For example, the cost of plywood has gone up significantly, which has driven up costs for work completed. Additionally, solar panels are considered too costly without a larger rebate or incentive. 

Landlords are seldom approached by tenants for energy efficiency upgrades, and tenants are often afraid to approach their landlords for fear their rent will go up. Rent increases may depend on whether the upgrades make the tenant experience better or if they save the landlord money. If the latter, then landlords may wait until the end of the lease or until a new tenant comes in to increase the rent.

How Can Energy Providers Help?

Electricity providers need to communicate programs and offers available to landlords when a rented building changes owners or when tenants leave a unit. Often utility billing information will change during these periods and will enable energy providers to reach out at the right time to make changes. 

Landlords are interested in energy efficient programs and offers from building electricity providers, including rebates and tax incentives, but some have already made many upgrades on their own.

Allowing landlords to try something in their own home first such as a smart thermostat might also result in them making recommendations to their tenants.

Landlords would welcome a more “proactive” partnership from energy providers. Currently, energy providers only reach out to tenants, and only to landlords when the electric bills aren’t being paid. Instead, they would rather have providers be more proactive by identifying opportunities for energy efficiency on-site. 

By enabling commercial landlords with actionable recommendations, reaching out during owner or tenant transitions, and allowing them to try new technology in their own homes, utilities can help landlords and their tenants save money and energy. Learn more about reaching commercial landlords in SECC’s latest research, Understanding the Needs and Wants of Renters.

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