Firms Escaping EPC Penalties; Survey Finds Councils Offer Guidance on Energy Legislation, Rather Than Issuing Fines

Article excerpt

LOCAL authorities across Merseyside have yet to issue any fines to companies for breaching Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) legislation.

The findings come from Freedom of Information requests conducted among five Merseyside local authorities for Envos, the environmental management and compliance specialist.

The company claims councils are adopting an advisory rather than rigid compliance stance on EPC legislation.

Liverpool City Council confirmed this had been its policy so far.

A spokesman added: "Government guidance has been that we should offer advice and guidance in the first instance.

"If there is non-compliance, then we will look at issuing penalty notices from early next year."

Last month, Envos talked to Liverpool property owners, managers, local authorities and property agents at the Property Update Conference 2009, at Aintree Racecourse, to advise them of their responsibilities following recent and future environmental legislation.

The research reveals that some local authorities do not have an official policy in place for issuing penalties to organisations for breaching EPC legislation, despite it now being illegal for commercial property to be sold or let without a valid EPC in place.

Envos is warning that the lack of enforcement of the regulations may lead to abuse of the legislation by property owners.

"Enforcing EPC legislation is down to local authorities and those in Merseyside have clearly decided to adopt a collaborative approach, working with commercial property owners to educate them about the requirements of the law rather than issuing fines for non-compliance," said Darren Neild, regional director of Envos.

"While this may be a pragmatic response, in reality firms are breaking the law if they market property without an EPC, and this mixed approach to enforcing the legislation sends a confusing message to the property market.

"The main incentive of obtaining an EPC should be the environmental and economic benefits of acting on its recommendations to make your property more energy-efficient, but often it takes a regulatory stick to force companies to act. We fear that if property owners don''t face any punishment for flouting the regulations then they will continue to be abused, which will do nothing to help achieve the legislation's objectives.

"The Government is clear that EPCs are a key part of its response to the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive but has left enforcement down to local authorities and we urge the Government to set clearer guidelines on the implementation of this law to ensure clarity for the property industry and also ensure EPCs have teeth and do actually drive forward the environmental improvements in commercial properties originally envisaged. …