RICS

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?

Landlords can help tenants save energy

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The traditional Landlord and tenant relationship is normally seen as a ‘them and us’ style relationship. Often there is little beneficial communication between the two sides, and invariably the only contact is around quarter days when rent is due!

However one of the UK’s largest real estate investment trusts (REIT) British Land have recently been trialling automated meter reading systems in some of their multi tenanted buildings with a view to sharing the findings with the tenants. In tandem with energy-saving initiatives, the REIT has introduced a six monthly energy consumption report for its occupiers. This shows each occupier’s use of energy and compares it to the same period in the previous year together with their performance against others in the same building.

Monitoring and good management are key factors in energy savings and the evidence shows what can be achieved with relatively low levels of capital investment, particularly in additional metering. The key finding has been that active and expert management of the building counts. British Land is in effect funding its own version of the government’s green deal, forward funding green capital investment and recovering the outlay at no additional cost to occupiers through guaranteed savings in energy, which are given by the supplier. This enables the landlord to recoup investment costs through an increased service charge on the back of reduced costs for occupiers.

So by helping tenants see what they are using in energy terms the landlord saves them money, makes them more comfortable and reduces his own costs. While at the same time he makes the building more attractive for potential tenants – simple but highly effective!

Reduce VAT on energy saving improvements?

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With the economy very much ‘on the edge’ and looking likely to fall into recession again, our leaders are suggesting various ways of stimulating the economy. It seems likely that some form of quantitive easing will be used again, but how about being a bit more intelligent with it rather than just printing money?

The suggestion that the Government should reduce VAT to 5% for all energy-saving measures installed in homes and businesses under its “green deal” scheme, makes total sense to me.

More than two dozen organisations have called for an across-the-board 5% VAT rate for the green deal, instead of 20%, which they say is needed to ensure take-up of the programme to reduce carbon emissions from buildings and cut fuel bills.

The demand which has come just as the Government is finalising the green deal, has come from groups including the British Property Federation, the UK Green Building Council, environmental charity WWF and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The green deal scheme will cover the upfront costs of a range of energy efficiency measures in homes, such as insulation, energy-efficient boilers and small-scale renewables, with homeowners paying back the money through savings on their bills.

But the groups warn the Government must do more to make energy-saving packages attractive to householders, making the green deal more affordable in order for it to be a success. A lower rate of VAT would also make it easier to meet the so-called “golden rule” in which repayments must be lower than the savings consumers make on their bills as a result of the new measures.

There is no doubt something needs to be done to attract people to energy-saving measures, recent research has shown some people can’t be bothered to add insulation to their roofs and walls despite guaranteed savings. Perhaps this would act as the catalyst?

Time to make commercial agents accountable?

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As a qualified energy assessor I have a vested interest in the enforcement of the law in relation to the provision of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s) on commercial properties. To be honest they are viewed by the market as a pain and something that has to be provided but only under sufferance!

Currently, only owners bear the responsibility for commercial EPCs, with agents carrying no responsibility, other than to inform owners that one is required (which they do to cover themselves). But owners only tend to provide them as and when a deal is agreed – not really within the law and not helpful in getting EPC’s properly adopted! Or providing me with work!

However, help is at hand! The CLG (Communities and Local Government) are finally proposing that from July 2011 agents will become responsible for both domestic and commercial  EPCs (they are already responsible on residential properties).

Under the terms of this new proposal, agents will finally become responsible for commercial property EPC’s and will be required to meet the regulatory and compliance standards as set out in the current legislation (Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2002). This means that the certificate should be available at the point of marketing the property. The requirement for an upfront EPC is in anticipation of the recast EPBD which will introduce EPC ratings with adverts in 2013 (if not before).

My institute the RICS (under whom I qualified as an assessor) are apparently in discussions with both the CLG and DECC to “ensure that practical steps are taken to ensure that agents are in a position to provide this information”.

I am not sure what the ‘issue’ is – all agents have to do is comply with the law as it stands at the moment and they will not even notice the change!

EPC anyone?