Despite all the warnings, the market has still not fully woken up to the introduction of further measures concerning Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) which are set to come into force in April 2018.
The requirement to have an EPC in place before marketing a property has been in force for over five years, but after 2018 it will become unlawful for any commercial or residential property to be either sold or let where it has an EPC rating of below band E.
At present a large proportion of properties fall into this category.
Paul Williams, head of agency at the Bristol office of Bruton Knowles, believes further work needs to be done to ensure owners are aware of the new rules, and the practical implications should they not take appropriate action by the time the legislation comes into force.
Paul said: “If a landlord is able to rent out a property without having to do anything to it, then it is perfectly understandable that they would want to do so. It’s a bit like selling a car without having to put on new tyres, if the existing tyres are still legal.
“At present, awareness amongst occupiers remains relatively low, but this will only rise as time progresses as the potential impact of the legislation is recognised.
“From a tenant’s perspective, the forthcoming changes mean that they may find that they can potentially drive down their rent or threaten to move on if the required improvements aren’t made.
“The landlord will then be unable to re-let or sell the property without carrying out potentially costly works to improve its energy efficiency rating. If this scenario is repeated across a portfolio of investments, then the risks are easy to see.
“A landlord may find themselves with a portfolio of property which can’t be let without expensive improvements being carried out, and not even able to cut their losses and sell poorly performing assets which fail the EPC test. In the meantime under current rules they will remain liable for payment of business rates even if the property is empty.
“Thinking you can do little or nothing is therefore not really an option unless owners are happy to risk ending up with a portfolio of void properties on their hands, whereas undertaking a programme of improvements over the next couple of years could help to spread the cost and minimise future risks.”
Paul added: “There is still time to make sure any properties are up to scratch in terms of energy performance.
“With Bristol basking in the Green Capital limelight, if ever there was a time to undertake any improvements then now is it.
“Our advice is to undertake any energy efficiency improvements during current void periods or lease breaks. They will more than likely be simple, low-cost measures which can be implemented and will have a significant impact on the energy rating of a building.”
In terms of residential properties, the new legislation is likely to affect both small buy to let landlords and large portfolio holders.
From 2016, residential tenants are able to insist that their landlords make energy efficiency improvements, and as with commercial premises, from 2018 houses and flats with a rating of “F” or “G” will be both unlettable and unsaleable by law.
Paul added: “We are trying to encourage residential property owners to draft a programme of capital improvements so that the necessary spend can be spread over three years rather than left to the last minute.
“We are likely to also see an increasing number of low rated houses coming onto the market as the deadline approaches which will have a corresponding effect on values.”