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No redactions to be allowed on domestic EPCs, says Government

Wednesday 21st March 2012
Written by Rosalind Renshaw

Major concerns have been raised about people’s privacy and security threats to empty properties because, barring a U-turn, ‘redacted’ domestic EPCs will not be allowed.

There is speculation that publication of the long-awaited Government guidance, including Q & As for agents, has been set back while civil servants re-examine the problem amid claims that EPCs with addresses could provide a happy hunting ground for property fraudsters, burglars, squatters and gossip columnists.

However, yesterday afternoon the Department for Communities and Local Government insisted that residential EPCs, for both sales and lettings, must always include the property’s address. There will be no exceptions.

It said that the full address was required to prevent fraudulent EPCs, and to ensure that people could identify that the EPC went with the right property.

However, the spokesman did not say when the long-awaited guidance to agents, with Qs and As, will be issued.

Even if the guidance does not have to be rewritten and approved, agents will still have at best only a short time to get to grips with the changes, due to be implemented on Good Friday – April 6.

CLG has acted to make it clear that although commercial EPCs can be redacted – guidance has been issued on this by the department – residential EPCs cannot be.

This means that the front page of the EPC which agents must attach to both their online and print particulars – and for both lettings and sales – will display the address of the property.

CLG has taken the view that this is a legal requirement, and that it could be illegal to remove it from the EPC.

Several agents have expressed their concerns that including the addresses will breach people’s privacy and could lead to property fraud.

Some have also suggested ways of digitally removing the address.

But Ian Potter, operations manager of ARLA, warned: “Use of software to do so will almost certainly constitute a criminal offence, as it will be altering a legal document.

“It would be no different from removing the signature of the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England from a ten pound note.”

Potter is advising agents not to attempt to devise means of redacting EPCs, pending further clarification from the Government department.

One difficulty is that simply putting an address on an EPC will not breach the Data Protection Act, which protects personal information but not property information.

However, it raises a large number of concerns.

One of these is that squatters on the look-out for empty properties could use EPCs.

Celebrity watchers could also use EPCs to work out which celeb was selling up. However, the issues of privacy and home security could be potentially problematic for all sellers and landlords.

Not only that, but addresses shown on EPCs are likely to lead to an increase in touting from other agents – although they would risk breaching the Property Ombudsman code.

Potter said: “My advice to agents is to hold fire on changing their IT systems until we have got clear and definitive guidance. We are continuing to press hard for this and will circulate it to our members as soon as possible.”

EAT raised concerns with CLG and yesterday afternoon a spokesman confirmed that only commercial EPCs can have addresses redacted.

He said: “The existing 2007 Regulations prohibit the alteration of the EPC once it has been registered. 

“The only exemption to this is contained in the amending Regulations that will come into force on April 6. 

“A provision will be made to allow the omission of the address from the first page copy of the EPC that is attached to the written particulars when the address has also been omitted from the written particulars. 

“A further amendment to the Regulations which also comes into force on April 6 will require that the redaction is carried out by the keeper of the Register. The further amendment to the Regulations will also restrict this exception to properties which are non-residential.
 
“The service being provided by the Register Operator will enable the address to be removed from the commercial EPC only.
 
“Property agents’ representatives agreed with this approach during discussions held with them.

“We are aware of anecdotal evidence which suggests that incorrect EPCs have been used in relation to properties marketed for sale or for rent.

“The requirement to attach the first page copy of the EPC will help reduce fraudulent incidents. 

“Furthermore, in order to meet Green Deal disclosure requirements, when a property with a Green Deal is transacted, potential buyers and tenants must be able to identify that the EPC provided is the correct one for that property.”

Property Ombudsman Christopher Hamer said that agents should obviously obey the law, but that it would be best practice for them to advise prospective clients before instruction about addresses being displayed on EPCs.

(17) Comments

Added by Ray Evans on 2012-03-21 15:25:10

This mess sends a message to all those who keep on wanting more and more legislation and interference from government?

If - If - If - but -but -but - 7days - 7 days - 7days - 28 days -28 days - 28 days.

Keep it simple - NO marketing of any kind until EPC is done and available. Can be done while vendors checks are carried out and particulars prepared - 3 days max. If address shown on particulars then address shown on EPC - if not then no.
Keep it simple!
Added by Jonnie on 2012-03-21 14:58:50

Look,

My dog can sniff fox poo out from a mile away; he then has a big long roll in it before ive even noticed what the little sod is doing

It’s the same with EA’s that like touting, there’s firms out there who send the negs out to get the house numbers from Rightmove listings whatever you do they will sniff them out

So like a waggy little dog that stinks of fox shit after every walk they will find the house number.

I gave up worrying about it years ago, not point getting wound up just make sure you take the wife’s car to the park and live with the fact that your dog has more baths than your kids

Jonnie
Added by Potter on 2012-03-21 12:46:38

Mr. Potter should be concentrating on his own house it would appear after reading comments on this EAT article!

http://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/news_features/NFoPP-ddirectors-to-thrash-out-issues-surrounding-its-future

Added by why always me? on 2012-03-21 11:49:04

Bummer, an inevitable touting paradise thats got us all worried about the competition. Suppose we better dust off those 'customer care' skills and retain our clients.

Security, squatters...hmm Is it me or anyone else feel concerned about another threat to our business. Guess we could be more proactive in our stock maintenance, gonna miss those drive-bys!

Don't you just hate it when every time they try to regulate our industry it just exposes how much more we need regulating?
Added by John on 2012-03-21 11:28:31

Lee
It is wrong that you were told to foxtrot you need to complain to the DEA and his accreditation straight away.
DEAs have standards they need to keep or be struck off.
Use your own local DEA who you have a relationship with
If you use a panel then the DEA may not get paid ??
Thats why you get these problems
Added by Lee Russell on 2012-03-21 10:41:11

Has anyone had the pleasure of trying to obtain a lost reference number from the website set up to obtain missing epc's? We are expected to send out EPC's to anyone interested in seeing them yet the website will not supply the information to us to obtain the missing epc, despite having to tick a box that means we can be fined £5000 if we are not entitled to be asking for the information. They will give you the details of the person that did the EPC but if that person is no longer operating, you have to go to the Accreditor they belonged to. The accreditors often dont want to supply it wthout ID and one got me to get a friendly EPC Assessor to ask for it for me. One Energy Assessor refused to provide it, said the client was emailed the report (she wasn't on email) and when I challenged him, told me to foxtrot. The system is a joke. We should all be very worried as to the fact that the CLG will plough on regardless of knowing there are potential problems that could easily be addressed. They just stick their fingers in the ear and spout lots of technical waffle. Rant over.
Added by S A Longden on 2012-03-21 10:23:43

What about lone elderly clients who definetely do not want even a board, let alone an address for world wide viewing? They feel scared and vulnerable, what about their Human Rights???
Added by IHS on 2012-03-21 10:12:55

Had one Agent target us in this way - found at least six touting letters from them in one of our empty houses. Not lost any properties to them - must be costing them a fortune in postage and stationary!
Added by Shipside's Ampitheatre on 2012-03-21 09:57:52

“Property agents’ representatives agreed with this approach during discussions held with them."

Eh? The NAEA agreed to this? What planet are those morons on?

Just wait until the papers get hold of this story.

@ALL - "as I understand it" (does anyone understand it?), Landmark will not allow access to full EPCs for the public. I believe agents will have to register - Landmark claim there has been abuse in the past...

Pickles needs to intervene.
Added by PbroAgent on 2012-03-21 09:30:24

I agree with Puzzled, it's all a storm in a teacup as it doesn't take a genius to look at a picture and go on Google Streetview to find out the house number if you're really that bothered.

Simples!
Added by A.L.L on 2012-03-21 09:28:46

Seeing as the EPC reference will also be displayed on the front page then this will not prohibit someone from downloading the full epc from the epcregister website and seeing the full property address details; so there will be little point in trying to remove the address from the front page in anycase.
Those who wish to find ways to tout will continue to do so through other means - maps and streetview...
Added by Ray Evans on 2012-03-21 09:21:30

This is a message to all those who keep on wanting more and more legislation and interference from government?
Added by I'm confused? on 2012-03-21 09:01:08

Got this through from Surrey Trading standards.

"If the address of the property is not written on the particulars, it can also be omitted from the copy of the EPC which is attached."

Written Particulars
Regulation 6: Providing energy information with particulars.

The written particulars for all buildings for sale or rent must have attached to them a copy of the first page of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). If the address of the property is not written on the particulars, it can also be omitted from the copy of the EPC which is attached. However, the address must still be provided on the full EPC which is provided to any prospective buyer or tenant (in accordance with regulation 5(2)).

“Written particulars” means any written description of a property (including those provided electronically), which includes at least two of the following:

a) A photos of the building or room.
b) A floor plan.
c) A description of room sizes.
d) The measured area of the building.
e) Proposed rent (in the case of rental properties only).
Added by OMG! Lol on 2012-03-21 08:38:49

Having looked into this further, I believe Rosalind has the measure of this story, but there are still a few omissions.

Compliance:

It is my understanding that if there is a concern that a property could be squatted, you do not have to show the EPC in the particulars. So there you have it, all of my properties will always will have a concern over squatting, I will have the EPC but will not show it, it can be requested and thus shown.

Also property lists do not require the EPC to be shown. Rightmove does not require it as it is a property display, so my website will become this also.

Working in London, there are tons of apartments, so I will take great glee at any agent that posts the EPC, I will be like Christmas will be every day!

Looks like this new legislation will actually make things worse for people that want to see how efficient a property is. Good work once again to our bungling civil service and fois gras stuffed politicians.

Added by puzzled on 2012-03-21 08:35:16

I'm not sure what the problem is. Almost every agent's website I look at has a link to a pdf brochure that gives the full address anyway, even if it's not on the webpage details. But maybe it's because these are in safe haven parts of the country.
Added by Jackie Oliver on 2012-03-21 08:16:22

Really not sure why anyone is bothered about touting - any agent who knows their patch and is worth their salt will know exactly which property it is with or without the address!!
Added by Annie Im noy your Daddy on 2012-03-21 07:16:38

What about Scummy corporate agents who will use them to TOUT like mad with adresses and house names and numbers!!

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