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Are School Buildings up to the New Standard for Leases?

Medico Legal

by Tim Wrigley and Chris Billington at Wrigleys Solicitors

The first stage of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standardcame into force in April 2018, affecting schools that act aslandlords for their properties.

The first stage in the implementation of the MinimumEnergy Efficiency Standard (MEES) came into force inApril 2018. Wrigleys produced a general guide for clientswho let properties which can be found here and, althoughschools do not often see themselves as landlords, they dosometimes end up in that position.

If schools are letting any properties, then they need to bearMEES in mind. Common examples where MEES couldapply is where people are occupying caretaker's cottages orother housing stock, or outside businesses are providingnursery and/or breakfast club and/or after school servicesin properties owned by a school. If a school has inherited achildren's centre or scout hut, or sub-lets part of its schoolback to the local authority or another entity then this mayalso fall within the ambit of MEES. Portable cabin stylebuildings are particularly vulnerable to falling foul of MEES.

Academy lease and long lease exception

One important exception is the leases for over 99 years donot fall within MEES so schools do not need to worry aboutany leases that have a really long term. This also means thatthe DfE template lease of a school from the local authorityto an academy trust will not be caught by MEES.

What schools should be doing now

If schools are concerned that any buildings that they are letting are not up to scratch, then they should arrange for anEPC to be produced and consider its recommendations. Ifthe building does not meet the standard of E or above, thenschools cannot grant any new lease until that building meetsthe required standard. Schools should also be consideringexisting lettings – they have until 1 April 2020 to ensure existing residential lettings meet the required standard anduntil 1 April 2023 to ensure commercial lettings do the same.

If schools own buildings subject to an existing lease that willnot reach an E rating, then they need to be reviewing theterms of that lease. Will the existing term end before 1 April2020 for residential leases or before 1 April 2023 for commercial lettings? If so, will this give schools the opportunityto upgrade the building and will they have funds to be ableto do so? If the term will not end before those dates, canschools bring the lease to an end anyway or do they gavethe powers (and money) to undertake the necessary workswhilst the tenant is still in occupation?

Schools that are converting to academies or academy truststhat are taking on new schools should add obtaining an EPCto their list of tasks prior to conversion/transfer of theschool. This will allow them to assess whether MEES willapply to lettings in any relevant building.

How we can help

Wrigleys can help schools review the terms of existing leaseswhere schools are looking to terminate a lease or carry outany works, to ensure that they do not inadvertently breachthe requirements of MEES.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further,please contact Tim Wrigley ((below left) or Chris Billington(below right) of the Education team on 0113 244 6100.

You can also keep up to date by following WrigleysEducation team on Twitter.

The information in this article is necessarily of ageneral nature. Specific advice should be sought for specificsituations. If you have any queries or need any legal adviceplease feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors. Article kindly reproduced courtesy of Wrigleys Solicitors


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