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EPC Regulations – the heat is on
From 6th April, new regulations regarding the commissioning and displaying of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) will be introduced. Agents that fail to meet the new requirements could see themselves being investigated by Trading Standards and could face a fixed penalty fine.
Under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) a building is required to have an EPC when it is sold or let. It is currently the responsibility of the person marketing the property (typically the agent) to ensure that this certificate has been commissioned and is presented to any prospective buyers for the residential properties they are marketing for sale. As of 6th April, this extends to commercial buildings as well as domestic rental properties, with the agent or person marketing the property becoming liable for a fixed penalty fine if they do not correctly commission and present an up to date EPC to prospective buyers or tenants.
As part of the revised regulations, a new style EPC will also be required and it will become mandatory that the first page of the EPC be attached to written particulars for all properties marketed for sale or rent. Further, Trading Standards Officers, who are responsible for investigating cases of non-compliance, will receive enhanced powers, allowing them to more effectively enforce the new requirements, issuing fixed penalty fines if agents are in breach.
PEPA Chairman Stephen O’Hara said, “It’s going to be important that all agents are fully aware of their new responsibilities. Agents must have the necessary systems in place to ensure that the new style EPCs are not only commissioned in a timely manner, but that they are monitored and followed up to ensure that the certificate has been received and is being correctly presented within a revised, shortened time period.
“While some agents may view these changes as onerous, this move could significantly improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s buildings – helping to lower fuel bills for residents and tenants while helping to reduce carbon emissions. Research by Consumer Focus and the Ideal EPBD project has found that 15 per cent of consumers will implement recommendations in EPCs, if they see the document. This highlights the importance of the EPC and the key role it can play in improving the efficiency of the UK’s buildings. We are aware that in the past some estate agents have flouted the current regulations in an attempt to secure listings. With greater powers being given to Trading Standards Officers to investigate cases of non-compliance, those days will be well and truly in the past come the 6th April.”
An EPC is designed to inform a potential purchaser or tenant about the energy performance of the building, so they can consider energy efficiency and fuel costs as part of their decision on whether to buy or rent a property. It also provides recommendations on the various steps which could be taken to improve the property’s energy efficiency and as a result reduce fuel bills.
In addition to the implications for agents, Domestic Energy Assessors (DEAs) also face significant changes. As of the 6th April, DEAs will be required to have undertaken and passed a further training module if they wish to continue producing EPCs. For DEAs, the new qualification will also be fundamental to being able to qualify as a Green Deal Advisor in due course.
NEW EPC REGULATIONS
Stephen O’Hara, PEPA Chairman answers some of the questions being posed by the industry:
1 When do the changes come into effect?
The changes come into force with immediate effect from the 6th April 2012
2 What are the main changes?
A new style EPC is being introduced, which will include all of the key information, including recommendations on how to improve the energy efficiency of a building, all on the front page.
It will no longer just be agents marketing residential properties for sale that will be responsible for commissioning and presenting an EPC to prospective buyers. Any agent or person marketing a property for sale or rent (residential or commercial) will be required to commission an EPC and present this to prospective buyers/tenants.
It will become mandatory that the agent (or person marketing the property) attaches the front page of the new EPC to the written particulars for all properties marketed for sale or rent
The time allowed to procure an EPC will be reduced from 28 days to seven days – following which, Trading Standards Officers can issue an agent with a fixed penalty fine.
Trading Standards Officers will be given greater powers – allowing them to investigate any agent believed to be in breach of the new regulations and issue them with a fixed penalty fine.
3 Why have the changes been introduced?
The revised regulations have been introduced to help improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s buildings, while providing future buyers or tenants with recommendations on the various steps which could be taken to not only improve the property’s energy efficiency but as a result, its fuel bills too.
4 What about properties already on the market?
For properties that are already on the market there is no requirement to procure a new EPC but the current regulations must be observed.
5 What if the EPC hasn’t arrived within seven days?
Agents will be able to apply for a 21 day extension. However, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you have made every ‘reasonable effort’ to procure the EPC within the seven day period. Failure to do this could result in a fixed penalty fine. If the EPC is not available after a total of 28 days the property must be taken off the market or a fixed penalty notice can be served on the agent immediately and without notice.
6 Who will investigate cases of non-compliance?
As with the current system, Trading Standards Officers will investigate cases of non-compliance. They will issue fixed penalty fines to any agents found to be in breach of the regulations. However, as of the 6th April they will receive enhanced powers that will allow them to enforce the new regulations more effectively. They may require documentary evidence that the EPC exists or has been commissioned in order that they can satisfy themselves as to the reason for any delay.
7 How will Trading Standards Officers know if an EPC hasn’t been correctly commissioned and presented?
Anyone can report an agent for non-compliance. PEPA runs a non-compliance reporting function for its members, which actively encourages members to report any cases where they are aware agents are not complying with the regulations. This service is currently being extended to estate agents and the reporting of non-compliant agents is expected to increase in momentum over the coming months.
8 What are the penalties?
For commercial buildings a fixed penalty will be for a sum equal to 12.5 per cent of the property rateable value (the yearly rent the property could be expected to achieve) subject to a minimum fine of £500 and a maximum fine of £5,000
For residential buildings the fine will remain at £200 per breach.
9 Can you be fined more than once for any given property?
Yes. There is no limit to the number of fines you can receive for a single property. Following a fine, if you do not remove the property from the market immediately, or have sufficient evidence to show that an EPC has been commissioned and that you have made every ‘reasonable attempt’ to procure this then you could be liable for another fine.
The Property & Energy Professionals Association (PEPA) is a trade body which represents business that is engaged in the provision of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and Display Energy Certificates (DECs). Members of the Association include companies that undertake and distribute EPCs and DECs, the accreditation schemes that oversee the products, the energy assessors that produce them and the technology companies that support the industry. PEPA members represent a wide range of organisations, working within the energy space.