Friday, 13 April 2012

New energy rules for those selling and buying homes

The rules on the display of energy ratings (Energy Performance Certificates (EPC)) for homes have changed.

Those advertising property such as estate agents must now (as from the 6th April) :

  • Include the 1st page of the EPC for all sales and lettings properties in printed and electronic property particulars.

  • Have ordered an EPC prior to marketing and to produce  it within 7 days of marketing
If you are looking to market or let your property it is important for you to make sure your agent is complying with these requirements. 

Your agent must include a copy of the entire front page of the EPC document and not just the EPC graph as has currently been the case.  This includes any literature containing particulars of the property to be marketed including electronic communications such as emails.

Property particulars are defined as including at least two of the following elements:

  • a photograph of the building or any room in the building,
  • a floor plan of the building,
  • the size of the rooms in the building,
  • the measured area of the building, or,
  • the proposed rent in relation to a building being rented out,.
This may therefore (depending on how the new rules are interpreted) extend to the pictures and particulars of your home that appear in the agent’s window or in the local paper.  As for rentals the new rules seem must clearer and there seems no getting away from the requirement to display in any advertisement the front page of the EPC.

Almost all lettings adverts will include a property photo and the rental price, and thus it will be hard to avoid this.

The size of the EPC extract shown in the particulars must be sufficient for the details to be read – don’t allow the agent to print it very small nor to try and circumvent the rules by simply adding a link to the EPC.

Interestingly the first page of the EPC contains the full address of the property.   Agents do not normally like to display the full address in literature as this provides marketing opportunities for competitors.   Unfortunately there now seems no way around it and the address must remain within the published first page of the EPC.

What about properties appearing on agent’s websites?  Arguably as there is a picture of the property and often other particulars such as room sizes etc the first page of the EPC ought to be reproduced possibly in full rather than through clicking on a link.  

Rightmove it is reported recently emailed all of its agent clients and made the claim as quoted below:

"Rightmove is a property advertising website and the information displayed on Rightmove by all our member agents takes the form of property adverts and not property particulars. This is clearly stated at the bottom of every page on Rightmove that displays the details which have been provided to us by the agent about a specific property and will continue to do so.

It is our view that the new regulations do not place any additional obligations on Rightmove, although you may wish to consider separately how the new regulations might affect your own company website. We do, however, understand that some of our member agents may wish to display the EPC as part of the property advert on Rightmove. Rightmove does provide the functionality for you to do this if you so wish."

I do not necessarily agree that is correct; looking at the new rules and the elements that must exist for the publication of the EPC it is difficult to see how one can in this way distinguish ‘adverts’ from publication of property particulars.  Rightmove publishes pictures and particulars of property and this is no different from details published in newspapers or in an agent’s window.

Let’s not forget the purpose that lies behind the rules, and that is those looking for a property to buy should be able when searching to have immediate access to the energy rating for that property.

The problem is that as with the fated Home Information Pack some agents are reluctant to go to the expense of ordering and paying for an EPC until they know a buyer has been found for the property.  They view these requirements as an unnecessary hurdle to the marketing of the property.

My advice to those selling and renting is to always ensure that any agreement reached with an agent to sell or rent you home includes a clause that the agent orders and pays for the EPC. If you are buying always insist on seeing the EPC before viewing a property and if the EPC’s first page does not appear in the particulars of sale wherever these might appear always ask for an explanation.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at davidpett@m-j-p.co.uk

No comments: