Energy Performance Certificates To Help Tackle Climate Change

A new consultation published today will boost efforts to tackle climate change and promote energy efficiency by proposing estate agents must include Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) with their property particulars for the first time.

This would give consumers better access to information, helping them make new green choices by comparing energy costs between homes.

EPCs, energy ratings for homes, will give consumers for the first time information about the energy efficiency of properties, and practical steps to reduce carbon emissions and save on energy bills.

To increase awareness of the benefits of undertaking environmental improvements, the Government is also proposing to make the EPC the first document in the Home Information Pack when launched on 1st June. The introduction of the EPCs has been given added urgency following the recent publication of the Stern report into climate change.

The consultation also includes changes to speed up the home buying process based on the evidence of rigorous testing in area trials. It proposes changes to accelerate the delivery of local searches which can take more than 4 weeks in some areas, and tackling the post code lottery of different levels of service and different charges for consumers.

Ministers are also in discussion with the financial services industry about providing green mortgages which fund the improvements suggested in EPCs, as well as exploring options for linking EPCs to incentives to encourage energy efficiency such as the council tax rebates some local authorities are offering in conjunction with energy suppliers.

The consultation also sets out the following steps:

  • The Government will be issuing new guidance to local authorities on providing prompt access to all search information, speeding up the process and setting charges that are fair to consumers, after area trials have shown that obtaining searches and leasehold documents can cause delays of four weeks or more in producing packs.
  • While action on searches is being implemented, there will be transitional measures to ensure the smooth implementation of HIPs in June, based on evidence from the area trials. Sellers will be able, for an initial transitional period, to market their home as soon as an EPC and key legal documents are provided as long as searches and leasehold documents (where relevant) have been commissioned. These transitional arrangements will be reviewed after six months to see whether they are still needed.
  • Where relevant, flood and ground stability searches will be required in packs as soon as systems are available to enable pack providers to find out quickly and cheaply whether a property is in an “at risk” area. This will give buyers key information without putting sellers to the expense of providing extra searches in areas in which these are not relevant.
  • The fines for estate agents who fail to produce Home Information Packs (including Energy Performance Certificates) will be reviewed in the light of experience from June 1 and could be raised from £200 to £500 if they fail to meet their commitments.
    Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly said:

"This is an important opportunity to improve the buying and selling process for consumers. We want to promote a greener housing market for consumers and Energy Performance Certificates can play a key part in this. By providing more information on the energy efficiency of homes, we can help consumers make more informed choices about the homes they buy and their impact on climate change.”

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said:

“Most people have no idea about things like the lagging in the loft when they buy a new home. But this will tell people how they can save money on their fuel bills and cut their carbon emissions at the same time. The trials have also shown we need to tackle the unfair postcode lottery in searches which can cause homebuyers all kinds of costs and delays.”

New independent research published today confirms that the current home buying and selling process is slow, expensive and uncertain for consumers. It shows that the home buying process is fraught with information failures and a lack of transparency for both sellers and buyers.

The Mori HIPs baseline report found that buyers and sellers currently face transaction times which average more than 6 months from marketing to completion, making them among the slowest in Europe. One sale in four took 8 and half months to complete and 23 per cent of buyers who completed a sale had at least one failed transaction.

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