Thursday, 20 October 2016

EPCs 10 years on – time to reassess their impact?

It’s a decade since residential properties in the UK were first required to have a ten year Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before they could be sold or let. As the ten year anniversary approaches, the time has come for the early starters to be reassessed.

Originally part of the Home Information Pack (HIP), loved by a few and loathed by many - but which would have been useful if implemented as originally intended, the EPC survived when the HIP requirement was abandoned in 2010.

At first regarded as a bureaucratic irritation rather than a necessity, the EPC gained more traction recently when the introduction of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) meant that from April 2018 it will be difficult, but not impossible as some suggest, to let a property with an Energy Efficiency Standard below Band E on its EPC. There are exemptions that can be registered, but these are subject to re-application every five years, and it is by no means certain that this will continue ad infinitum. Indeed, it’s expected that the rules will become tougher and eventually exclude Band E properties.

With that in mind, it could be beneficial to review the EPC for your property even if you are not yet required to replace the original purchased 10 years ago. In fact, some landlords are relying on an EPC that exists from when they purchased the property, and therefore was provided by the vendor rather than themselves.

Where a property is Band F or G, but also for those with a low score in Band E, having a new EPC assessment could make the difference between 10 years of worry-free letting and the stress of not knowing whether an exemption granted in time for April 2018 will be renewed in 2023.

The energy assessor who provides the EPC will check for items such as double glazing, boiler efficiency, radiators, and insulation for the hot water tank, walls, and loft. The results are fed into a software program that produces a figure for the EPC, which in turn determines the banding in some instances. The assessor can override the program if there’s visual or written evidence that standards are higher than the software assumes.

Where you are borrowing to fund the purchase of a lettings property, your lender may want confirmation of its energy efficiency standards, especially where the current banding could make it borderline in the future and therefore bring a possible diminution in its asset value. Therefore, taking care of what was once regarded as a merely administrative necessity could pay dividends.

Certain classes of building are exempt from the need for an EPC. As far as residential landlords are concerned, the principal category concerns those that are officially listed as of historic interest.

From April this year, tenants have had the right to ask their landlords to approve their installation of energy efficiency measures. Originally this would have fallen under the Green Deal - a scheme that already had drawbacks before its funding was withdrawn because of low take-up.

Improvements were supposed to be funded through energy bills applicable to a property, provided the benefits of the improvement outweighed the cost of making them.

But it’s much better to make these improvements independently, as part of an investment in your lettings property, rather than using a scheme that allows tenants to take charge, as this may ultimately restrict which energy company you can use in the future, as not all energy providers are involved. While this may seem insignificant, consumers are growing more energy aware and may resent having their opportunities to switch curtailed.

My recommendation is that where tenants ask to carry out an energy survey, you allow it to go ahead, but then consider whether or not it’s to your advantage to implement the improvements yourself so you retain control. It may also be that the work can be completed at lower cost than the tenant’s chosen contractor offers.

Lisa Simon, 
Partner Head of Residential Lettings
T: 020 7518 3234 

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