Civil servants scramble to get EPC changes back on track
Changes to rules about EPCs are due to be implemented on April 6 – but with just over five weeks to go, the whole matter appears to be in total disarray.
It raises questions as to whether the changes can really happen when they are due, on Good Friday, although late yesterday afternoon – after a series of persistent phone calls by EAT to the relevant government press office – Communities and Local Government insisted that it would be issuing guidance to agents this week.
At 5pm, a spokesperson said: “I’ve checked with policy officials and we are making specific guidance available to estate agents this week so they will know how the system works well in advance of April 6.”However, there was no clue as to what the guidance will be.If there were a delay, it would not be the first: the EPC changes were due to be implemented last July 1, and then in October. Both dates passed with nothing happening – and very little information to give to agents, who will run the risk of breaching legislation.
Philip Salaman, of energy assessors’ accreditation body Quidos, believes that the confusion will prompt agents – who will not want to be caught by fines as enforcement is stepped up – to rush to put properties on the market before April 6. He said: “We are being bombarded by inquiries from our members requesting clarification.“Given there are a whole raft of changes in April for energy assessors and the new-look EPC is being introduced, it is difficult for them to keep on top of all their clients’ inquiries about the new legislation.
“CLG confirm that the regulations have been made and laid and will be in force from April, but specific guidance is not yet available, which is frustrating.”It is understood that the new version of the EPC, from which one page will have to be attached to agents’ particulars, has not yet even been approved.
In addition, according to Nick Salmon, the new version of the EPC will require DEAs to have additional training, and without this they will be unable to issue an EPC.
Salmon said that there is also some debate about how many DEAs will be needed – a reminder of the HIPs debacle where so many Home Inspectors were trained at their own cost, and then had no jobs.
Salmon said he felt that the earliest the EPC change could now be implemented would be October. He said it would be helpful for agents to be given proper notice of changes, describing EPCs as “this useless piece of nonsense being foisted on us”. However, as things stand, the changes are still due to kick in on April 6.The main changes are that agents will be required to append the first page of the EPC to the written particulars. They will have seven days from the start of marketing a property, whether for sale or rent, to procure an EPC and a further 21 days if for some reason this has proved unsuccessful.
New powers will be given to Trading Standards to intervene after 28 days and demand to see either the EPC or evidence that the EPC was ordered before marketing began, with agents potentially facing £200 fines per failed inspection.
Agents should also note that in another change, it is they and not the seller who will be legally responsible for the EPC. For letting agents, pending any further clarification, the situation is different in that it is the prospective landlord who is responsible for the EPC.
According to guidance from CLG in December, the EPC can be reduced in size, but must still be in a readable format for those with visual impairments; black and white copies of the EPC are acceptable.However, simply providing an EPC in the office and retrieving it when the prospective buyer or tenant leaves the office is not acceptable. In CLG’s view, the EPC would no longer be physically attached to the details, prompting speculation that a paper clip might not be sufficient.
CLG also said in December that it would be implementing a technical solution for agents to retrieve the EPC from the EPC register and attached to online written particulars, with or without the address of the property if there were confidential issues, but there has been no update on this and there has been no further guidance about online marketing of properties.
Quidos’s Salaman has asked whether a link to the EPC, either on the agent’s own website or to the central register, would be sufficient, but has yet to have an answer.Indeed, with just over five weeks to go, there are many more questions than answers. However, EAT and LAT will be bringing you updates as and when we get them.
Story Courtesy of Estate Agency Today