Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) were introduced under The Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 (the Regulations) to help improve the energy efficiency of buildings. As with most domestic electrical goods, EPCs rate buildings “A” to “G” (with “A” being the most energy efficient and “G” being the least). The EPC is also accompanied by a report which makes recommendations to make a building more energy efficient.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) had proposed changes to the Regulations which were meant to come into force on 1 July 2011. These have now been pushed back to come into force on 6 April 2012.
The DCLG’s proposed changes now have a further impact on non-residential buildings including:
- The requirement to commission EPCs before marketing properties for sale or rent (previously applicable to residential properties) is to apply to all buildings;
- The seller/landlord must ensure that a valid EPC is provided within 7 days of the start of marketing. (The regulations currently allow for 28 days). A further 21 days is permitted if, despite reasonable efforts are made, the EPC is not provided within the 7 day time limit;
- EPCs can no longer be delayed until just before the parties enter into a contract for sale or rent;
- All agents/sellers/landlords are to ensure that a full EPC is included in all marketing material, including sales particulars and written particulars which are produced for rented out buildings and commercial properties;
- Trading standards officers are to have increased powers of enforcement to ensure that properties being marketed have an EPC in place. The powers to require production of the EPC documentation is to also cover persons acting on behalf of sellers/landlords, e.g. estate and letting agents. This means that trading standards officers will be authorised to require estate agents to produce evidence showing that an EPC has been commissioned where they are marketing a building without one.
Failure to comply with these rules will enable trading standards to issue potential fines to sellers/landlords of £200 for each tenant or purchaser that has rented/purchased the property during the period of non-compliance. It is therefore arguable as to whether the proposed fines will actually incentivise compliance with the regulations. In fact, research has shown that as at April 2011, approximately £7.2 million was provided to English and Welsh local authorities to enforce The Energy Performance of Buildings regulations but that there were less than 7,000 enquiries made by trading standards over the 3 year period. Also, it appears that no enforcement action has ever been undertaken by local trading standards.
Notwithstanding the changes referred to above, it is reported that further EPC changes in line with European Union legislation are expected this year. EU legislation requires energy ratings to be included in all ‘property adverts’ but it is likely that there will have to be consultation as to what constitutes a ‘property advert’. So watch this space for further changes to the Regulations!