The Government attempts to clear up confusion over new EPC Regulations

Posted: 04/05/2012

The new EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) Regulations were released last month on the 6th April, but the guidance that the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) released had some major flaws along with the online system that Estate Agents operate to retrieve an EPC.

The first problem began when the Government released their Official Q&A whichcaused more questions rather than giving clear answers. Here are some examples from the puzzling Q&A:

Estate agents have a week from the beginning of marketing a property for the EPC to be acquired, followed by an extra 21 days if it has not been possible to obtain one. However, the Q&A conflicts with itself by stating that an EPC has to be accessible to any potential purchaser or tenants if they request the information or if they go to view the property. The guidance says that an EPC should not be offered later than any of these two events, this could mean that agents potentially won’t be able carry out viewings until an EPC is obtained.

The second pot hole came from the guidance when it describes the meaning of ‘written particulars’ and the ‘giving’ of a written particular, ‘The giving of written particulars includes making them available electronically, such as in an email or as information on a website.’ This means that agents will have to recover an EPC from the Register and attach it to any online written particulars. Although the guidance states that an EPC does not have to be joined to a newspaper advert or window cards, this will need further clarification from the CLG as they only specify this rule for properties up for rent, not for sale. This sparked another debate when property portals such as Rightmove decided that their websites were advertising properties, therefore they did not have to attach an EPC to their advertising material. Estate Agents were outraged as they have to attach an EPC to their website advertisements. Clarification from the Government is still being awaited.

More confusion comes from whether an EPC has to be completed for a property in 7/21 or 28 days, up to now, both have been said. Also, if a property is put on the market without an EPC, estate agents face a fine of £200 although it is not known how local Trading Standards will police this situation.

Perhaps one of the biggest issues that’s been raised about the residential EPC was the fact that addresses could not be redacted and the CLG have confirmed that this will still be the case, only redactions on commercial EPC’s are allowed. Some of the concerns about this included worry that squatters could use an EPC to find empty properties and celebrity watchers could also use an EPC to find out which celebrity is selling their home. Other problems could include estate agents touting from other agents although this would be breaking the Property Ombudsman code. The CLG claim that the address is required to prevent counterfeit EPC’s and to make sure people could identify that the EPC is for the correct property.

Other problems emerged from the online database system by Landmark, a private company owned by the Daily Mail, that Estate Agents have to use to retrieve an EPC. The guidance states that the first page of an EPC must be attached to written particulars yet the Landmark database did not give an option to print off only the first page of an EPC for residential properties. This meant that Estate Agents had reams of wasted paper each time they needed to print off the desired EPC. The format in which an EPC is displayed online is an un-editable PDF, so the system does not have an option to simply print the first page. This resulted in a huge waste of valuable time and a greater consumption of paper, even though the EPC is supposed to be ‘green.’

Thankfully, the Government have amended this after a month of Estate Agent battling with the online system. There was an email sent out yesterday afternoon on the 3rd May to all Agents that confirmed they would now be able to print off the first page of an EPC from the Landmark website. The Regulations do not restrict how a the first page of an EPC is provided which means it is acceptable to use other products on the market to extract the first page of an EPC from the PDF.

However, the guidance did state the following; ‘It is not acceptable, for the information contained on the first page to be altered, amended or changed in any way. ‘DCLG and Landmark must also ensure that the security of the EPC is maintained. Several instances of fraudulent EPCs have been brought to DCLG’s attention and the security levels and the PDF format of the EPC currently in operation is an attempt to respond to these concerns. Producing EPCs in alternative formats, such as JPEG, would effectively reduce security of the PDF certificate and potentially increase the likelihood of fraudulent or address redacted copies where they are not permitted.’

The chairman of the Property and Energy Professional Association, Stephen O’Hara, welcomed the revised guidance and congratulated the Government on its speedy response; ‘We are delighted that the Government has listened to the industry and our calls for this vital amendment to be introduced. We have been lobbying the Government to revise the guidance, to allow the first page of an electronic EPC to be separated and to exist as a single, stand-alone page, since the regulations first came into force.’

Do you believe the new style EPC will be truly beneficial in the long run, reducing carbon emissions and saving home owners money? Some Estate Agents claim that the changes the Government have implemented have been in existence before 6th April and it is down to the minority of Agents that the new Regulations have come into existence, due to them undertaking the bare minimum for an EPC.

Amanda McGovern, Pali Ltd

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