Majority of property professionals ‘not prepared for EPCs’

More than half of the region's property professionals are not prepared for the arrival of Energy Performance Certificates for commercial properties, according to a poll by law firm Hill Dickinson.

A total of 56% of property sector professionals polled online feared that they were either not that well prepared (34%) or not at all prepared (22%) for the arrival of EPCs on commercial property from 6 April.

Those polled jointly by Hill Dickinson and Place North West said that the late availability of information in general and on accreditation schemes specifically were among the key reasons for their concerns.

The survey revealed that less than 10% of surveyors, architects, developers, retailers, owner occupiers and structural engineers felt well prepared for EPCs becoming law.

EPCs are about to be legally required on construction and prior to the sale or lease of commercial property, and from October 2008 this requirement will extend to almost all commercial properties.

An EPC is a certificate for a building that gives it an asset rating based on its energy efficiency. They were first introduced as part of the Home Information Packs (HIPs) for residential properties and are now required for all homes marketed for sale after 14 December 2007.

But another key finding of the research showed that almost 50% of respondents believed that the introduction of EPCs would be delayed, because of widespread ignorance of the change in the law and the low number of accredited assessors.

An even greater percentage – almost 65% – feared that there would be insufficient assessors in place to allow the EPCs to be introduced as planned and on time.

Almost 40% said that they did not know what they needed to do to comply with the EPC regulations.

In support of the change in the law, nearly 40% believed that EPCs would have either a very positive or positive effect on their business because of perceived environmental and cost benefits or the creation of business opportunities.

Equally, some 7% of respondents from across the North West feared that EPCs would have a negative impact on their business through them incurring extra costs and presenting them with another and unwelcome bureaucratic hurdle enforced by the Government.

Other perceived downsides identified by the research included EPCs exacerbating delays in letting / sale deals and potentially negative consequences for buildings that receive poor energy ratings from assessors.

Bill Chandler, partner in the property practice of Hill Dickinson, said: "The fact that less than one in ten respondents felt 'very well prepared' for EPCs is not altogether surprising in the circumstances but obviously of concern given the potentially serious implications of non-compliance.

"But it's pleasing to see that there is no culture of denial about EPCs being extended to commercial properties and that the property industry accepts that this is an issue that it has to face up to.

"Perhaps the biggest surprise was how many property professionals appear to support the introduction of EPCs, creating a level playing field for buyers and tenants and forcing the market to provide greener premises with reduced running costs in the long term."

A total of 193 people completed the survey undertaken by CI Research on behalf of Hill Dickinson.

Hill Dickinson has offices in Liverpool, Manchester, London and Chester and employs 152 partners among more than 1,000 staff. The firm announced results of £68.4m in fee income for the year ended 30 April 2007, a rise of 31% compared to 2006.

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