Elmhurst attempts to clear up 'Listed Buildings' ambiguity
The general consensus in Industry appears to be that Listed Buildings are exempt from requirement to provide Energy Performance Certificates, if the property is being sold or rented. The recast of Energy Performance of Buildings Directive came into force on 9th January 2013 and since then this is the widely held view.
However, there is no express exemption in the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations for listed buildings and the regulations dealing with this point are not at all ‘black and white’. The recast also stated that Listed Buildings will still need EPCs for Green Deal or FiT applications.
The Regulations only state that a listed building is exempt from providing an EPC “insofar as compliance with certain minimum energy performance requirements would unacceptably alter their character or appearance”.
The issue here is that the test for certain ‘minimum energy performance requirements’ is not defined and therefore can’t be effectively complied with. EPCs provided for sale or letting do not have a minimum energy performance requirements, but with the advent of a BEIS policy of energy efficiency ‘Private Rented Sector’ (PRS) the context and applicability is changing.
Guidance (which is not Regulations, but an interpretation of this) on both the Government and Historic England websites on the EPC requirements indicates that listed buildings are exempt from the EPC requirements, although the Government website does state that” advice should be sought from the relevant local authority conservation officer if the work would alter the building’s character”.
Domestic Homes – Government Guidance“Buildings that don’t need an EPC these include:
Business Premises – Government Guidance“Exemptions you don’t need an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) if you can demonstrate that the building is any of these:
This appears to be a classic ‘catch 22’ situation in that to adhere to the regulations one would have to undertake the energy assessment and produce the EPC, in order to then substantiate to an appropriate authority that the energy efficiency measures would “unacceptably alter the buildings character” . To then prove that the building was exempt from the EPC in the first place!
Elmhurst argues that this was never the intention of the Regulations. It would in our opinion be much clearer and easier for all to understand to require EPCs for all Listed Buildings. The measures that the EPC indicates are simply cost effective measures that ‘could’ be applied to any building irrelevant of the status of the said building. After all they are measures that make the building more comfortable and save the occupants/landlords money from fuel bills.
EPCs do not state that home owners /tenants/or landlords MUST undertake the improvements suggested, they are just guidance. It is also clear that appropriate bodies should be sought when considering each recommendation and we see that Local Authorities can deal with this for Listed Buildings.
This in our opinion is no different from boilers and window replacement which require Building Regulations to be followed in all instances. We all agree that in the majority of listed buildings external solid wall insulation is probably inappropriate, but the vast majority of recommendations such as heating systems, heating controls, loft insulation, cylinder insulation and low energy lighting could be completely appropriate.
What is a listed building?
The legal definition of a listed building is contained within section 1(5) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as "a building which is included in a list compiled or approved by the Secretary of State". Historic England has published numerous guides concerning the different classes of historical buildings and their determining criteria on its website.
Historic England states in its guidance that:
"a listing is not a preservation order, preventing change. It does not freeze a building in time, it simply means that listed building consent must be applied for in order to make any changes to that building which might affect its special interest."
From this explanation it is clear that alterations to listed buildings are envisaged. It is simply that listed building consent must first be obtained to any proposed changes. Indeed why are energy efficiency measures dealt with differently from any other proposed change to the building?
We think that all parties involved in interpreting the current regulations are vulnerable. The current assumed stance of exemption from EPCs is ambiguous and leaves any party involved in sales and rental of listed buildings open to challenges by the appropriate authorities or more significantly with PRS legislation purchasers or tenants. Overlaid with MEES regulations this is getting to be a complicated area of law.
Keeping it simple will allow the process to work as was first understood, energy assess all buildings, giving tenants and building owners and landlords information on the energy efficiency of their building, and let the appropriate authorities with existing regulations deal with what is the appropriate energy efficiency measures for the building . If the building is ‘F or G’ rated and ‘Listed’ then use the ‘exemption register’ as detailed in the recently published Guidance from BEIS.
Elmhurst would want to see the EPC generated on a listed building to have some text describing its listing and that professional guidance should be sought before embarking on any of the measures indicated. We believe due to the fact that each listed building may be dealt with differently by individual local authorities, energy assessors should not be allowed to ‘switch’ off recommendations that they (or the owner/landlord) feel are inappropriate as this is not consistent and fair, but that the correct professional at the Local Authority makes the informed decisions.
In our opinion this is what was always intended, the EPC is a guidance document and people can use it as they see fit. The new PRS Regulations starting in April 2018 have highlighted a grey area, we will liaise with DCLG and BEIS to attempt to clarify this area of law on behalf of our members and we will keep them posted.
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