A painless transfer?

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As some of you who regularly read this blog may be aware, as an energy assessor I was trained by the RICS who are my professional institution. I subsequently lodged all my energy assessments under the RICS accreditation scheme – that is until they gave all their assessors one months notice of the closure of their scheme.

20121201-145557.jpgWell that month has now ended and I have transferred to another accreditation scheme, the transfer has been painless, but sadly that had nothing to do with the RICS who have been spectacularly absent throughout the entire episode.

At the outset I had to chase the RICS for confirmation of the scheme closure – not an auspicious start. Since then I have had one notification of a possible new scheme to join (CIBSE) from them and nothing else – no check to see if I had managed to arrange anything – nothing!

On Friday it also transpired that the scheme actually ended at 4pm – not midnight – so part way through the afternoon I found I couldn’t lodge any EPC’s – great! There was a note on the login page – but no one actually would login that way!

However, Lifespan who I use to lodge my assessments were brilliant and helped me out, also my new accreditation body – sterling – were very helpful and efficient. even CIBSE rang to check I was sorted – but not my professional body.

In an age when as Chartered Surveyors we are being asked to comply with more and more rules and regulations by the RICS it’s nice to see that they have our best interests at heart!

Left high and dry?

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20121026-202046.jpgI am a Chartered Surveyor – and proud of it. My membership of the RICS allows me to do my job and satisfy my clients that I have the necessary knowledge and qualifications to do it properly. So why does the RICS make it so difficult for me to consider them my ‘friend’ in business?

Let me explain – a few years ago I undertook the RICS accredited Energy Assessors course to qualify as an RICS accredited energy assessor – this would allow me to prepare EPC’s for my firm and clients and then lodge them. The training was quite intensive and not cheap, but I was proud to be accredited by the RICS as they were considered to be one of the better managed schemes – so perhaps of a better quality?

So all looks rosy – until Friday when I gathered (second hand) that the RICS are going to withdraw their accreditation scheme – so I will have to register with another body. This will possibly entail doing further exams – despite being qualified already, and more importantly if I don’t act quickly, might cause a break in me being able to provide the service.

I picked the information up from an RICS forum, from other equally confused assessors. I have subsequently spoken to the RICS by telephone and they have confirmed the news, and told me the letters are in the ‘process of going out’ – have they not heard of email? I have however been told officially by the software provider I use for EPC calculations and lodgment (Lifespan) and have also received an email from an alternative accreditation scheme (Elmhurst Energy) offering a free transfer.

So why if they can all contact me so quickly and efficiently, cant the RICS (who are supposed to look after my interests for me?)

Oh, and the notice that the RICS has given its members? Five weeks (and that is for the ones that have heard officially – I still haven’t). So am I to believe that this decision was only taken a few days ago – I think not!

Now do you see my issue with the RICS?

Prepare your property!

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As an energy assessor I get to inspect a large number of properties, most of which are vacant and looking to be sold or let. Consequently it is in the vendors (or Landlords) interest to ‘make the most’ of the property. Historically this has taken the form of ensuring units are cleared out, kept secure and generally ‘tarted up’ where required. If you were selling your house you would follow a similar regime to assist the sale.

There is however now another major factor that vendors and Landlords now need to consider as part of their marketing preparation, the EPC (or energy performance certificate). All commercial properties now need one if they are to be sold or let, so why don’t people take getting the best rating they can seriously?

This week I have prepared an EPC on a period office building (in Derby), nothing unusual there. But, a high proportion of the bulbs were old style tungstens (the type favoured by Daily Mail readers). As part of my report back to the client I highlighted that changing these all to CFL’s (compact fluorescents) would make a massive difference to the rating which as it stood would be an ‘F’.

Before the change
After the change…..

This being most important due to the changes due in 2018 which would make this property unmarketable if it remained as an ‘F’. This is something that all Landlords need to consider as part of their property portfolio reviews moving forwards.

On this property the change was quite remarkable  – for the cost of around 20 CFL’s (£20?) the rating moved from an ‘F’ to a ‘D’! So as far as this client is concerned the bulb change will be done, the EPC updated to a ‘D’ and the properties long term future secured.

So, in a nutshell, before you get your property assessed give some thought to the simple items you can alter like bulbs and fluorescent tubes – it may save you a lot more than just electricity in the long-term!

Another reason to take EPC’s seriously

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20120809-161918.jpgThis is a ‘hobby horse’ of mine, as an energy assessor I am regularly the subject of my colleagues jibes about EPC’s and how they are pointless and just get in the way of doing deals. My response has always been ‘wait, they will become relevant. So get them sorted now’

The changes requiring agents to have an EPC before marketing a commercial property have made them consider them more in the past few months – and strangely has made me busier! However there is another bit of legislation due to take effect from April 2018 which will potentially have a far greater impact and is only just being taken note of by the property world;

• The Energy Act 2011 was given Royal Assent on 18 October last year

• From 18 April 2018, it will be unlawful to let any property that fails to meet a minimum energy rating

What is not clear is exactly what the minimum rating will be, it is being speculated that the minimum will be an ‘E’. This would make all ‘F’ and ‘G’ rated properties unlettable!

As a practice we have been advising our clients to be aware of this for a while, but I have recently experienced its effect for the first time from one of the main lenders – a bank taking a charge over a development of six modern units that were built prior to the requirements for EPC’s on new builds. They had no legal responsibility for getting EPC’s on the units – but it was made a condition of the loan that they were provided.

What should you do / how might it affect you?

  • This could have very significant implications for landlords, and for occupiers who wish to assign or sublet space.
  • ŠŠMarketability of some properties would become impossible unless they were upgraded to meet the minimum standards. It is estimated that approximately 20% of non-domestic properties could be in the F & G rating brackets.
  • ŠŠFurther clarification on the transactional trigger for minimum energy standards is awaited; however the new minimum standards could apply to all lettings and re-lettings, including sub-lettings & assignments.
  • ŠŠValuations of such properties could be affected if their marketability is diminished.
  • ŠŠRent reviews for properties in this situation could also be affected.
  • ŠŠImplications for dilapidations assessments would also exist.

Food for thought, perhaps it is time to get your properties assessed so that you can be sure that they have a long term marketability?

EPC rules are changing – finally!

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Some while ago I blogged about how the rules for the provision of energy performance certificates on commercial property were planned to be changed – but kept being delayed. Well finally the new rules are coming into force – from the 6th April 2012.

That is obviously good news for me as an energy assessor, but it will I hope also make people on both sides of property transactions far more aware of the effect of the energy efficiency of their properties on business generally.

At a business lunch I attended this week I was discussing ‘green buildings’ with a couple of banking clients. They still have to see this having any effect upon their lending – either from a security point of view or value stand point. What they are very aware of though is the long-term potential that the energy legislation may have on their security – the proposal that all F & G rated properties will become un marketable from 2018 is already on their radar. The ‘official line’ they have been told by the powers above is that the Government are unlikely to miss their proposed changes in legislation.

This highlights one of my pet hates – lazy landlords – get the easy things done to your properties in terms of ‘greening’ them before marketing. Things like low energy lighting, insulation and replacing old inefficient heating systems. It can make a huge difference to you epc rating.

You have been warned!

Is it really that difficult to pass legislation?

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As a profession we have a vested interest in environmental matters, whether or not ‘green buildings’ are capable of attracting higher values is up for debate (see my colleague Tim Garratt’s recent research). But, one thing we can do is ensure purchasers and tenants of commercial property at least have an idea of how energy-efficient their buildings are. Enter the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), one of our industries most maligned pieces of paper!

How green is your building?

The residential market has been more EPC savvy than the commercial world for a while, the law has required all residential agents details to have the EPC graph displayed (and consequently the public have come accustomed to it). The Government however in their infinite wisdom decided that the commercial property market wasn’t ready for this level of enforcement (despite it being far smaller than the residential market) and consequently the requirements for EPC’s on Commercial property were ‘wishy washy’ at best, and easy to ignore at worst.

The upshot of this was that EPC’s are not generally prepared before marketing (which they should be) and tend to be prepared just as the property is in lawyers hands – once the deal has been agreed. Consequently the property decision has been taken without any view to the energy efficiency of the building – no wonder green buildings currently show no premium value over ‘ordinary’ buildings!

However, finally last year the Government announced their proposals to bring the Commercial Property world in line with the Residential market – through their proposals for the amendments to the Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and inspections) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 – otherwise known as the EPD regulations.

But, (and there is always a ‘but’), the regulations were supposed to come into force in June 2011, but they were delayed until October 2011 – and now we are being told that they will be delayed until April 2012! We were only told this on Friday by the CLG, so most agents are already in the process of preparing for the changes, so why the delay of almost 12 months in total?

No one really knows, according to the CLG the proposals are still the same as they were at the start. What is clear is that the current situation will prevail until Easter 2012 at which point there will probably be a mad rush to comply by agents who no doubt currently feel ‘relieved’ that they don’t have to get their EPC’s quite yet!

I am still hoping that my work load on EPC’s (I am an assessor) will increase over the next 6 months as people get ready for the change (assuming it is not delayed again), but I am not holding my breath!

So thanks CLG for again being a great help on this!

The ‘joy’ of online systems!

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One of my roles at work is as an energy assessor – it is through my training for this role that I have developed my interest in the ‘green agenda’. I am qualified under the RICS who are my professional body as a Chartered Surveyor.

So far so good – the system I have to use to enter my data for energy assessments is an online one, called Lifespan SBEM – it is quite user-friendly and generally works well. As with all online systems it has its moments. Sometimes I have to log out and back in as it will freeze, but this is not a major issue, just an annoyance.

However, today I was planning to do a lot of inputting to get a number of EPC’s sorted for Monday – this is one of the joys of online systems – you can work from anywhere that has access to the web. So up early this morning to watch the Grand Prix and input data.

Lifespan SBEM is working fine today as a website, but, and here is the problem as I see it with lots of on-line systems, it needs to link to another site (Landmark) to get its address information. Also without this address information (and unique address code) Lifespan won’t allow me to start inputting a new job.

So I am ready to go but can’t. And being a Sunday no one is available at Landmark or Lifespan to tell me when the database will be back on-line to allow me to work!

Surely if you are providing a system that can be accessed 24/7 you should provide support 24/7?

This is going to be a long day (and night if the database only comes back tonight). And if it’s not back until tomorrow expect me to be extra grumpy at work tomorrow!