Commercial property agents are failing to comply with regulations on energy performance certificates (EPCs)

Between 27 April and 22 May, EPC accreditation body National Energy Services (NES) contacted 108 agents on the pretext of acting for clients interested in buying or renting a typical high street office or shop. Agents were given until 1 June to respond.

Eighty-eight of the agents failed to produce an EPC. Almost half of those said the certificate was not necessary or could not offer an explanation as to why no certificate was available.

A spokesman for Communities and Local Government (CLG) claimed that of the 2.6 million commercial property sales since the implementation of EPCs, only a small percentage did not have an one, suggesting that NES had been “unlucky with some dodgy estate agents” in its sample.

He said it was the responsibility of Trading Standards to enforce compliance. He was surprised at the disparity between CLG’s figures for sales (rental figures were not available) and the findings of NES.

NES found that either the EPC appeared within 48 hours or not at all. Nearly half (47%) of the agents who could not supply an EPC said it wasn’t necessary or could not explain why one was not available; 36% said they would only get an EPC at the point of sale – a breach of the legal EPC requirements; and 17% said they believed an EPC was being undertaken at the time.

Austin Baggett, deputy managing director of NES, said the survey sprang from anecdotal evidence from NES members. He said many had not seen the expected amount of work with the introduction of mandatory EPCs, and estimated the compliance level at 20-30%.

“I was expecting about 40% compliance, but we felt we had to test the theory and address the concerns coming from assessors,” he said.

Baggett suggested a tightened legal requirement that placed responsibility on the estate agent, not just the owner of the property.

“The feedback from estate agents is that property owners often don’t care. As a result some agents have let the issue slide. Tightening up that legal loophole could help the situation.”

Baggett said what was missing was clear guidance from CLG. “What we’re hearing is an ambiguity in guidelines and the understanding of guidelines. Anecdotally Trading Standards have a mechanism in place to enforce this, but CLG need to set out more Jack and Jill, simple guidelines for EPCs.”

Since the implementation of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in January, it is a legal requirement that all commercial buildings being marketed for sale or rent have an EPC available to inform prospective buyers or tenants about the property’s energy performance.