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30 June 2008

Energy Performance Certificates

The introduction of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) in Northern Ireland has generated interest and concern amongst our members. Following the European Union's decision to take action against the United Kingdom for failing to comply with the European Directive on energy performance in Northern Ireland, the authorities here have been forced to act quickly. The Northern Ireland Assembly has recently passed Statutory Regulations to implement the terms of the European Directive in Northern Ireland. The Law Society believes it is important that public are aware of these new Regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.     Why are Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)being introduced?

EPCs have been introduced to comply with the European Directive 2002/91/EC on energy efficiency. The Directive lays down a common methodology to measure energy performance of buildings throughout the European Union and the EPC is the certification document required.

To implement the Directive in Northern Ireland, The Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) Regulations (NI) 2008 were made on 9 April 2008 (SR 2008 No 170). These Regulations are available for download from the following link: -

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/sr/sr2008/pdf/nisr_20080170_en.pdf

2.     What information is on an EPC?

An EPC gives details of the energy efficiency of a building. This is calculated from its structure and energy management systems. The ratings range from A (very efficient) to G (very inefficient). The certificate also shows a score from 1 to 150 with lower scores indicating lower CO² emissions.

The EPC must be accompanied by a recommendation report detailing measures to improve the energy efficiency of the building.

Other information required describes briefly the building and details about the energy assessor who supplied the certificate together with accreditation details.

3.     When do the Regulations come in to effect?

The timetable for the implementation of the Regulations in respect of EPCs is as follows: -

  Commencement Date
DwellingsSale30 June 2008
New builds30 September 2008
Rental30 December 2008
Buildings other than dwellingsSale30 December 2008
New builds30 September 2008
Rental30 December 2008

Accordingly the sales of existing residential properties will be affected from 30 June 2008.  The precise date when a dwelling is placed on the market for sale is not material. The provision applies to all existing dwellings, which are on the market for sale after 30 June2008, irrespective of how long they have been on the market.

For the timetable for certificates in relation to the inspection of air-conditioning systems, see the Building Regulation website referred to at the end of this article.

4.     Are there any exemptions?

EPCs are not required for buildings used as places of worship, certain temporary buildings, for industrial sites, workshops and non-residential agricultural buildings with low energy demand and for stand alone buildings smaller that 50m² which are not dwellings.  Also, if a building is to be demolished after sale, an EPC will not be required.

5.     What is the position about parts of buildings such as a block of flats?

An EPC can be supplied based on a representative apartment or unit in the same block, or, except in the case of a dwelling, on a common certification of the whole building for blocks with a common heating system.

6.     What other reports and documents have been introduced?

A Display Energy Certificate is required for any building which has a floor area over 1000m², is occupied by public authorities or other bodies providing public services and which is frequently visited by members of the public. These must be prominently displayed to members of the public. The occupier must also possess an advisory report, which details improvements to the energy efficiency of the building.

The Regulations also require five yearly inspections of air conditioning systems with an output exceeding 12kW, for which an inspection report must be issued. A cooling unit in a typical office room is 5-6kW so that two such units may escape inspection. Larger units usually found in retail premises are likely to have a 10-15kW output.

7.     Which of the parties to a property transaction must supply an EPC?

For a sale, the seller must supply the EPC. For rental of properties, it is the prospective landlord. For buildings under construction, it is the person responsible for having the construction work carried out.

For Display Energy Certificates, the occupier is the responsible party. For air conditioning reports, responsibility rests on the person with control of the operation of the system.

8.     In the course of a property transaction, to whom is an EPC supplied?

The EPC must be made available free of charge to any prospective buyer or tenant at the earliest opportunity and in any event, before entering a contract for sale, renting or building. A person viewing a building or who has requested in writing information about a building should be given an EPC at that stage. Copies and electronic read only certificates may be supplied.

9.     How much will an EPCcost?

Prices are not fixed by Regulations or by any government body. Energy assessors who supply certificates will compete with each other so the market will ultimately decide.

In England and Wales prices are less than £100 but direct comparison is not possible as EPCs there are supplied with Home Information Packs, which are not required for Northern Ireland. For non-domestic buildings, the cost will be much higher for larger and more complex buildings.

10.      Does the issuing of an EPC impose any duty on the responsible parties to take action to improve the energy efficiency of properties based on the content of the report.

No.  This is a matter for the existing regime of Building Control Regulations. The underlying purpose of the EU Directive is to provide information on energy efficiency in the expectation that this will assist and encourage people to take action.

11.      Who issues an EPC?

An EPC is issued by an energy assessor who must be a member of an accreditation scheme approved by the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP).

Accreditation schemes may be limited to certain categories of buildings for which an energy assessor may produce certificates and to types of air-conditioning systems, which they may inspect.

12.      What does the DFP consider when deciding whether or not to approve an accreditation scheme?

The DFP must be satisfied that members of an accreditation scheme carry out consistent and accurate assessments, are qualified by education, training and experience to provide assessments and have satisfactory indemnity arrangements in place.

13.      What controls exist for the validation of EPCs and the other documents and reports required under the Regulations?

The DFP will nominate a person to keep a register for these purposes. An energy assessor must ensure that each document issued by him is entered on the register and it is given a unique reference number. It cannot be altered after registration and it will be retained for a period of at least 20 years from the date of registration.

14.      For how long is an EPC valid?

Ten years. The EPC will therefore cover a series of transactions within that period.

15.      What about enforcement?

Part 7 of the Regulations deals with enforcement and makes provision for enforcement by way of civil penalties. Depending on the breach, these penalties range from £200 to £5000.

16.      Where can I get further information?

Regulations are available at:

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/sr/sr2008/pdf/nisr_20080170_en.pdf

Further information is also available on the DFP web site at:

www.buildingregulationsni.gov.uk

England and Wales have well-established accreditation schemes and their assessors may operate here and vice versa.

If you go to www.communities.gov.ukand enter the search term "EPC" there is comprehensive information, which also includes accredited schemes for existing buildings and other requirements.

For further information please contact:

The Law Society of Northern Ireland

40 Linenhall Street
Belfast
BT2 8BA

Northern Ireland 

Telephone:            028 90 231614
Fax:                 028 90 232606
Email:             info@lawsoc-ni.org