Energy Performance Certificates that should help people cut their bills are having no influence on four out of five homebuyers who see them, according to new research by Consumer Focus.1
The consumer watchdog, carried out a survey to find out how useful prospective buyers and tenants found the certificates, which landlords and homeowners are legally required to provide when selling or letting a home. It found that four out of five people who had received an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) when buying or renting had not acted on any of its recommendations to make their new home more energy efficient and save money.2
The survey also found that only one in five people who received the information said it had any influence on their decision to buy or rent the property.3 However, when asked what features in a new home were most important to them, apart from price and size, one in seven people said energy efficiency mattered most.4
Recent government figures show that carbon emissions coming from Britain’s homes are still at almost the same level as 20 years ago, having fallen just three per cent between 1990 and 2009.5 EPCs are vital to the success of the Government’s Green Deal, which aims to cut emissions from homes. In future they must help consumers understand how to access the Green Deal and whether a property has a Green Deal loan attached to it.6 The EPC must be accurate, clear, and be provided before people buy or rent a property.
The Government’s announcement on Monday 31 Jan, that accredited Green Deal providers will be able to contact homes with EPCs to offer tailored advice, is welcomed. This is provided that advice is relevant, accurate and can be compared with other offers. However the information on the certificates themselves must be improved to help consumers make informed decisions on the energy efficiency of their homes.
Liz Lainé, energy expert at Consumer Focus, said:
‘Our survey shows that energy efficiency can influence people when choosing a new home. But the information in the EPC is not helping people act on those concerns. With the Green Deal just around the corner, these certificates must become a trigger for action, not just a sheet at the bottom of a huge pile of home-buying paperwork.
‘Too many landlords and estate agents are getting away with selling and renting properties to people who have no idea how much heat their new home will leak. If prospective buyers and tenants could easily compare how much their energy bills are likely to be in different properties, they could negotiate a price based on their new home’s energy efficiency.’
Consumer Focus is calling for the EPC to be changed to make it clearer how much money people can save by carrying out the suggested energy efficiency measures – particularly given the key role of the certificate in Government plans for the Green Deal. Information could also be included to help consumers compare the likely differences in heating bills between homes.
The consumer champion is also calling on the Government to give Trading Standards powers to crackdown on people who break the law by selling and leasing properties without an EPC. This would allow Trading Standards to inspect commercial letting and estate agents to make sure they are using EPCs. Almost half of people surveyed who had moved in the last two years did not receive a certificate, with tenants even less likely to receive it.7
In the meantime Consumer Focus advises prospective home buyers and tenants to:
- Use the EPC to see how much they could save – energy performance certificates include a list of improvements from which a property would benefit. Consumers can get more information from organisations like the Energy Saving Trust on costs, savings and access to grants or other assistance available in their area.
- Use the EPC to negotiate on price – the worse the energy rating of a home, the more it will cost to heat. Where ever possible, consumers should take this into account when choosing a home and use this as a bargaining tool to get a better deal.
- Report people selling or renting property without an EPC – Landlords and sellers who do not supply an EPC are breaking the law and are liable to a penalty charge. Consumers should report them to Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.
Notes to editors:
- TNS Research International conducted face-to-face interview with 2,049 adults on behalf on Consumer Focus, between 12 January 2011 and 16 January 2011.
- Of those consumers who received an energy performance certificate when buying or renting a property, 79 per cent said they had not acted on any of its recommendations since moving in.
- Of those consumers who received an energy performance certificate when buying or renting a property, only 18 per cent said it had influenced their decision.
- Respondents were asked, after finding the right size home at the right price, what was the most important issue in selecting a home. 14 per cent said energy.
- According to DECC figures released 1 February 2011.
- Under the Green Deal, households will be able to install energy efficiency measures and pay for them from the savings made on their energy bills. The Green Deal charge will be attached to the property that has been improved, rather than the individual who took out the Green Deal.
- Of those who have rented or bought a property since October 2008, only 44 percent received information on the energy efficiency of the property before signing a contract.
- Copies of the research – Room for improvement: the impact of EPCs on consumer decision-making – are available from the Consumer Focus press office.