The process of obtaining an EPC should be relatively simple however the consumer is faced with a bewildering array of EPC providers. These range from the local independent assessor to the corporate providers with their flashy websites. Many of the larger operators have emerged from failed HIP providers; others are conveyancing firms looking to pick up the lucrative legal fees generated from selling your house.
The involvement of the "big players" in the EPC market and a sense of desperation on the part of the independent assessors, has started the inevitable price war. Competition amongst providers has seen prices for EPCs dropping as low as £29.95. But should the alarm bells be ringing for consumers who choose to buy the cheapest EPC?
Industry insiders have discovered that a number firms offering "budget" EPCs are taking up- front payments and then staging a reverse auction amongst energy assessors who will bid the lowest possible amount to gain the job. These auctions are resulting in assessors earning as little as £15.00 per EPC, which after expenses would take the fee below the minimum wage!
Surely such competition is healthy, with the consumer benefiting from lower EPC prices as companies scramble for their business? Well the cheap EPC market may be showing signs of a meltdown as reports grow of companies taking consumers money and simply not delivering the EPC.Levels is discontentment amongst energy assessors involved in these "bidding wars" is such that bids are being made with the assessor concerned having no intention of completing the EPC. Many assessors have simply not been paid for EPCs they have produced and are launching dirty tricks campaigns to inflict damage on these unscrupulous operators.
A recent report has identified an incident whereby a home seller having paid for an EPC on-line was advised by the visiting energy assessor that the payment had not gone through and that a cash payment was required. The unwitting purchaser ended up paying twice for the EPC and has yet to receive either the EPC or a refund. The assessor concerned, when questioned on what was effectively a fraudulent act, said "this company owes me over £400 in EPC fees dating from July; this was the only way I could get any money back as they do not answer my calls or mails. They can't exactly sue me!"
The accuracy of the EPC report has also been brought into question as assessors refuse to spend the required time inspecting each property. Typically a survey on a three bedroomed house will take 30 minutes with the loft inspected and photographed along with the walls, windows and heating system. A "reverse auction" EPC may have been generated from what amounts to no more than a cursory glance at the property, with the assessor just needing to move on to a more lucrative job.
So what does the future hold for the players in the cut price EPC market? Two of the UK's leading EPC accreditation bodies have banned their energy assessors from using their software to lodge EPCs produced from reverse auctions. The remaining nine will no doubt be watching developments closely, however the lodgement of EPCs provides these authorities with a fee each time an EPC is produced and it is unlikely that all will follow suit. Trading Standard Officers up and down the country are becoming increasingly inundated with complaints from disgruntled consumers still waiting for EPCs, whilst Energy assessors are turning to the courts to obtain payment for EPCs they have produced and not paid for.
Despite this apparent turmoil in the EPC market, home sellers and landlords alike are still commissioning EPCs, with just over 132,000 produced during September 2010. The fact that the certificate remains a legal requirement will ensure that EPCs continue to be needed, however consumers should think twice before instructing any company offering EPCs on the cheap
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EPC Choice provide Energy Performance Certificates to the property sector. Our services include EPCs for both public and private Landlords, Housing Associations, Letting and Estate Agents and the Construction Industry.
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