Govt Clash over 2018 Exemption

GOVT CLASH OVER 2018 EXEMPTION

27 February 2017

Accreditation and assessor organisations have welcomed a new official guide on Minimum Energy Standards for commercial buildings, but two government departments look set to clash over an important exemption to the regulations.

Both accreditation bodies Stroma and Elmhurst and an assessors’ leader have praised the new guidance, which has just been published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, at a time when many commercial landlords are seeking guidance about the new rules due to come into force in April next year.

But they have all pointed out that there is no clarity over official guidance on whether or not listed buildings will need EPCs.

Ian Sturt (left) of the Alliance of Energy Assessor Associations pointed out that while BEIS has supported the long-held view of many NDEAs and accreditations that most listed buildings should not be exempt from the requirement for an EPC, the Department of Communities and Local Government continues to suggest that they should be.

Mr Sturt said: “The Alliance has long been arguing that an EPC is required for the majority of listed buildings under the existing Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations.

“We have seen the DCLG gradually backing away from the stance that “if it is listed it is exempt” but unlike BEIS they have not yet issued clear guidance stating otherwise.”

He said there is official concern that EPC recommendations for energy performance measures such as solar PV, solid wall insulation or new windows would damage the character of listed buildings, but BEIS has said that there is no reason to prevent other improvements being carried out.

He added: ” There are literally thousands of energy inefficient listed properties out there where things like loft insulation or upgrading heating and/or hot water systems can make a significant difference, without altering their character.

“The people living in those properties need them more energy efficient, and the country can’t afford for those properties not to be upgraded if we are going to meet our targets.

“It would clearly be ridiculous to completely exclude a large proportion of our least efficient buildings from the requirement to make them more energy efficient if it is reasonably possible to do so.

“That is why the regulations only exclude them if it is not reasonably possible to do so; and we are pleased that BEIS has finally recognised this and issued appropriate guidance.

“What we now need is similar clarification from the DCLG. In the meantime, assessors should not risk telling clients that if their property is listed they don’t need an EPC for sale or rental.  That advice could prove to be incorrect, making the assessor liable.”

Andrew Parkin (right), Stroma’s Technical Manager, is also hopeful that the two government departments will harmonise their approach to the exemption issue, and would like to see a return to a full requirement for EPCs on listed buildings.

He told us: “Stroma Certification welcomes the clarification from BEIS on Commercial MEES, particularly on its stance over listed buildings.  Other than certain measures which ‘may’ be more expensive or difficult to install within a listed building, there are many recommendations that can be applied without any planning issues.

“This opinion has been voiced on many occasions by the industry and it has been noted that the current guidance has been changed in 2016 to remove reference to listed buildings.

“Stroma now hopes that both BEIS and DCLG can reach the same opinion on this matter and that listed buildings will be required by law to have an EPC at the point of sale or rental. “

Stuart Fairlie (left), Head of Technical at Elmhurst said: “We have always encouraged joined up thinking across government departments, especially in this instance when clarity is required in relation to listed buildings.

“The information from BEIS  seeks to clarify the MEES regulations for landlords. DCLG have not changed the regulations for listed buildings, and they continue to be exempt from EPCs for sales and lettings.

“Together with other AB’s I’m sure, we will make the relevant representations to DCLG to make sure absolute clarity is achieved.

“We support both Departments’ efforts in making homes and buildings more energy efficient and we will work with them to clarify policies where ever possible.

“In the short term, this should not deflect from the positive guidance from BEIS and it is very good news for non domestic energy assessors, as it is clearing up how the regulations will work in reality.”

He added: “We have seen lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest that many landlords, especially the fund managers of portfolios, are taking this regulation extremely seriously and looking at the viability of their portfolios moving forward.

“This ultimately is a good opportunity for energy assessors to advise these clients and create good business opportunities. It is also extremely likely that the same Guidance will come out for domestic MEES, which will be a similar good news story for domestic energy assessors.

“Many members are reporting significant increased demand for non-domestic EPCs as the deadline for Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), the regulation that prevents private landlords renting the least energy efficient properties from April 2018, starts to get closer.”

To access the Non Domestic Private Rented Property Minimum Standard guidance go to https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-non-domestic-private-rented-property-minimum-standard-landlord-guidance

To download the full Alliance of Energy Assessor Associations statement on the new guidance click here

For more information including fact sheets on MEES from Elmhurst Energy go to http://www.elmhurstenergy.co.uk/help-support/minimum-energy-efficiency-standards