Does this look familiar...?

by Gary Hartley

After three moves in three years while living in Sheffield, followed by eight moves in six years of living in London, I think I’m definitely what could be termed a modern nomad.

Landlords have always been quick to check my references to make sure I’m going to pay up and not trash the place – but not once have I been given even the most cursory sight of the Energy Performance Certificate of any of the digs I’ve been moving into.

I’ve long suspected that this experience might not be atypical – and my theory is now confirmed by Consumer Focus, who’ve produced the first figures on EPCs and the private rented sector.

Their report suggests that although 79 per cent of buyers received EPC information, only 33 per cent of social housing tenants, and 31 per cent of people privately renting, have been given the privilege – a figure that, going on past experience, actually seems high.

So what’s going wrong? Apathy? Honest oversight? Either or both parties not actually realising their roles and responsibilities? Are landlords afraid that if they gave out the information tenants wouldn’t want to rent their leaky flats? Do tenants realise what they’re getting into?

There are causes for concern beyond access to EPCs alone. Other reports on the study are focusing on the finding that 79 percent of prospective house buyers who do receive their EPC don’t act on its recommendations.

These are somewhat surprising statistic no matter how involved you are with energy issues on a day-to-day basis, since it wouldn’t be exaggeration to say that energy price rises are a big consumer story of the age.

At the launch of the report, Liz Lainé of Consumer Focus said, ‘These certificates must become a trigger for action, not just a sheet at the bottom of a huge pile of home-buying paperwork’.

Agreed. We think it’s time to shake things up a bit.

We recently discussed our response to the government’s Green Deal consultation, looking at the effectiveness of EPCs as a document to drive action on home energy efficiency. To add a little more to that, we feel the EPC needs a more active role, and it needs to be flexible.

There’s no such thing as a ‘standard’ occupancy of a property – so, likewise, EPC assessments need to be less one-size-fits-all and more flexible, to fit the shape of people’s real lifestyles and behaviour. It’s about taking the words and numbers off the page and making people see it in their lives, so that they can take realistic, appropriate action in their homes and see how it’s going to work.

For nomads like me it’s a little different – but I’ll just say that, if some landlords are afraid of sharing how leaky and cold their properties are (or how old and gas-guzzling their boilers are), some others are missing a trick – you’d think they’d want to show off to prospective tenants how cheap the place will be to run.