The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock points out why energy performance certificates have few fans

My hit list of the rules that waste the most time


As our new Government appears to be in the mood for getting rid of loads of stuff created by Labour, including Home Information Packs, I hope it won't be long before David Cameron and Nick Clegg ditch some of Gordon Brown's legislation affecting landlords.

Top of my most-hated list are the energy performance certificates (EPCs) that were introduced in 2008 to give tenants and house buyers an idea of how energy-efficient their new home is likely to be before they make a commitment to rent or buy.

'No tenants have asked to see an EPC, possibly because they haven't a clue what they are, or don't care'



Of course energy costs are increasingly important to tenants, especially with the rising price of gas and electricity. But really, a piece of paper doesn't tell you anything about a property that you can't see for yourself.

Take my Victorian flat. Tenants would have to be pretty daft not to realise that a place with floor-to-ceiling sash windows, single glazing, floorboards and high ceilings is going to leak heat. On the other hand, they don't need a science degree to see that my purposebuilt, ex-local authority flat with double glazing throughout and a new boiler is nice and toasty in the winter.

Not a single tenant of mine has asked to see an EPC, possibly because they haven't a clue what they are, or most likely because they don't care. No one has said: "I love this place but I must see its energy rating before I make up my mind." Never. Renters choose properties according to location and condition, end of story.

I did once ask to see the EPC of a property I was viewing after the tenant warned me the house was chilly and the boiler temperamental. My request took the letting agent by surprise. She didn't have the certificate on her so she said she'd have to dig it out. But did she show it to me? Nope.

They don't cost landlords a lot - you can get an energy performance survey done for less than £50 if you shop around on the internet - but it's just one more expense, yet another piece of paper and that extra bit of hassle that landlords don't need. Perhaps Mr Cameron will start to sympathise if he becomes an accidental landlord by letting his North Kensington home.

Sadly, I don't think Cameregg will be able to get rid of energy performance certificates as swiftly as HIPs, because they were created by the last government specifically in response to an EU directive. It stated: "Member states shall ensure that when buildings are constructed, sold or rented out, an energy performance certificate is made available to the owner or by the owner to the prospective buyer or tenant." So it looks as if we're stuck with them.

I suppose the idea behind EPCs is that they will encourage property owners to do their bit for the environment, that allowing tenants to compare one property's energy performance with that of another will force landlords to draft-proof their windows, install more efficient boilers and put a bit of lagging in the loft.

Now don't get me wrong, I am all for saving the planet. I like to think I'm as eco-friendly as the next person and I flatly refuse to vacuum more than once a week. But really, is anyone going to spend several grand on double glazing and insulation just to get a few extra pounds in rent? Never gonna happen.

Meanwhile, surveyors increase their carbon footprint by driving around carrying out energy surveys, probably in gas-guzzling sports cars bought with the income from selling EPCs.

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