Energy Performance Certificates or EPCs have been around for a number of years now and you are legally obliged to have one if you want to sell or rent a property in the UK. They cost around £50, are valid for ten years and tell anyone who is interested how energy efficient your property is.
Like most people, I have paid little attention to EPCs in the past and a poor EPC would never be something which would put me off buying a property. Indeed, I purchased an apartment last year with an ‘F’ rated EPC (almost as bad as you can get – the scale goes from ‘A -G’ with ‘G’ being the worst and ‘F’ not far behind!), To be fair, I did take more notice of the EPC on this purchase than I had in the past as the law is due to change and from 2018, it will be illegal to let a property which has an EPC rating of ‘F’ or ‘G’. This might well be something which would put many buyers off and rightly so, but it didn’t faze me and I pushed forward with the sale for two main reasons. Firstly, I knew that the worse case scenario was that I might have to spend a couple of thousand pounds to change a few things to improve the ‘F’ rating. And secondly, I didn’t believe the ‘F’ rating was justified or anywhere near accurate. Which brings me to the point of this article.
I can see exactly why someone has seen fit to penalize ‘F’ and ‘G’ rated properties – when I think of such buildings, I think of old, cold, musty properties with poor or no heating and full of draughts. The apartment I purchased couldn’t have been further from this example – it was only twenty odd years old for a start and was lovely and cosy. No draughts, not cold, no condensation or mould – basically a really comfortable property and certainly not one which you walked into and thought, ‘Oh yes, this definitely deserves an ‘F” But regardless of my opinion, the thing which really made me think that the rating was wrong was the fact that the eleven other properties in the block all had different EPC ratings, despite being identical. They ranged from ‘B’ to ‘F’ – a pretty wide range by anyone’s standards.
Now, I can see that a mid-floor flat will be deemed to be warmer than, say, a ground floor property because heat will be rising from below and retained from above due to the insulation of the upper-floor flat but how much difference does that really make? All other aspects of the individual apartments were basically the same – they all used the same heating (electric) and all had the same windows. The only real differences I could see where that some had low energy light bulbs fitted and some had a standard electricity meter as opposed to a dual-rate meter (so that electricity can be used and charged for at night at lower rates). I decided to give my EPC assessor a ring and talk things through.
My initial opinion was that the rating of a property was subjective and the luck of the draw, depending on how your assessor viewed certain aspects. For example, one assessor might think that electric storage heaters should be rated ‘Good’ whereas another may think they are only ‘Average’. It appears that this opinion was completely wrong! My EPC assessor explained that his job was to input all of the relevant information into his software, ie. type of property, type of heating and so on, and then the software would decide what was good and what was bad. This was slightly confusing to me as I had noted that my heating was graded as ‘Very poor’ even though the exact same heating in other apartments in the block were graded as ‘Average’. A simple one to explain – it all depended on when the EPC was carried out as the way in which different things are graded seems to change on a fairly regular basis. My EPC was over eight years old and therefore didn’t take account of many more recent software changes of opinion.
The EPC assessor advised me to buy a jacket for my hot water cylinder and some low energy light bulbs and we arranged a date for him to reassess the property. His opinion was that this would be enough to get the apartment into the ‘safety zone’ of an ‘E’ or even a ‘D’ rating. I also noted that the flat now had a dual-rated electricity meter which hadn’t been installed when the original EPC was completed. So my total outlay was less than £50. The old EPC recommended all sorts of changes from new fan-assisted storage heaters to flooring insulation, with estimated costs in the thousands (it would take years to recoup that lot based on cheaper heating energy bills).
As soon as the assessor walked into the property he agreed that, ‘No way is this an ‘F”. This made me feel much better because, well, I knew it wasn’t, that’s why I bought it in the first place! After half an hour or so, he left, armed with the necessary data and promised to send me the new EPC later that day. A few hours later and the new certificate popped into my inbox and showed that my apartment was now graded as a ‘C’!
Of course, I was over the moon and this was far better than I had anticipated but it made me wonder how many other properties there are in the country who have wildly inaccurate EPCs? How many landlords are going to spend thousands of pounds unnecessarily in order to try and bring their buildings up to spec? It also made me wonder how beneficial an EPC really is if a few lightbulbs, a £9.99 cylinder jacket and a dual-rate meter can be the difference between an unlettable ‘F’ rated property and an above average ‘C’ rated one?
If you have a rental property with an ‘F’ or ‘G’ rated EPC, it is worth considering what you need to do now to increase the rating so you don’t fall foul of the new law in 2018. If your EPC is a few years old, you might only need to make minor changes and you might get away with just having a new assessment done. Regardless, before you rush out and make any of the changes suggested on the old EPC, I would pick up the phone to an assessor and have a chat. The assessors are best placed to advise and recommend on what you need to do – all sorts of things could have changed since your EPC was issued and a quick phone call could save you a small fortune.