Energy reports: How selling your home could become more difficult

Soon you'll need an energy report just to sell up, but getting one may not be easy. By Chris Partridge
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The Independent Online

A shortage of energy assessors could hit buy-to-let landlords when Energy Performance Certificates become mandatory.

The certificates, which grade a home from A (best) to G (worst) by its energy-saving features such as lagging and insulation, will be the only part of a Home Information Pack requiring an assessor to visit. EPCs will be compulsory for houses for sale when HIPs come in next year, and will be needed for rented properties from 2008.

A shortage of assessors will affect investors wishing to sell property because of the need to get the tenant's permission for access. It is still not clear whether a landlord will need a new EPC for each new tenant, or whether it will remain valid for a period.

Domestic energy assessors (DEAs) must take a course, which can take several weeks and cost about £3,500. But people have been deterred from signing up by the Government's action earlier this year when it abandoned Home Condition Reports, destroying the investment in time and money of thousands of would-be inspectors.

The shortage is so severe that one of the training organisations, SAVA Business Exchange, is offering a bursary of £1,500 to anyone who signs up for the 12-week course. Up to 1,000 bursaries are available.

Brian Scannell, managing director of SAVA Business Exchange, says: "In recent months, there have been voices in the industry who've questioned whether there will be enough home inspectors and domestic energy assessors to meet the expected demand for site visits. However, we believe the bursary scheme will incentivise more people to come forward and train as assessors and that the target can be met."

Worries that assessors may not be able to make a living out of energy assessments without combining them with home condition inspections are unduly pessimistic, Scannell says. DEAs will be able to carry out three to five inspections a day at up to £150 a time, and with 1.5 million properties marketed a year, plus the private rented sector (and, eventually, commercial property), there should be enough to go round, Scannell says.

Mike Ockenden of the Association of Home Information Pack Providers is confident there will be enough DEAs to cope with demand. "Home inspectors are qualified to become DEAs and about 4,000 inspectors are in training."

But Richard Gard of the National Landlords Association says: "It is difficult to know the real situation as the training programme is still being developed, but it is a concern for our members down the line. Our position is that it is yet another thing landlords are going to have to cope with, as there is no requirement to do the work - it's just to help the tenant decide."

There are few inducements for landlords to invest in energy saving, Gard says. "We are pushing for the Government to make more grants available."

Some estate agents suspect EPCs may lead to new taxes. Nick Salmon of the campaign group Splinta believes that not only will the shortage of energy assessors cause confusion and delay when HIPs come in, but that the energy ratings will in future be used as a tax-raising mechanism. "The regime that will accompany the EPCs has not yet been determined," he says. "In theory an EPC should last 10 years, but it may be that landlords will have to get a new one done, at £80 to £150 a time, every time they let a property."

Once all homes are assessed, taxes on energy inefficiency will prove irresistible, he believes. "I'll bet that after the assessments come in, Council Tax will be used to force landlords to upgrade their properties."