What can I do if I think my energy performance certificate is wrong?
Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 19 March 2014 at 8:31 am
Q. I have recently bought and moved into a new house. The house was built seven years ago and the energy performance certificate (EPC) dates from 2009. It states approximate bills of £128 lighting, £43 heating and £117 hot water. I thought this was a good guide taking into account an increase in energy prices since it was published.
The EPC also states the house is heated by underfloor heating from central heating which I assumed was correct as it was advertised as the same on the estate agent’s website.
However I have since discovered that the underfloor heating is electric and, to my dismay, before my first bill, my meter seems to be doing overtime – approximately 150kw/h over four days. This does not include having the whole house heated, or even having the heating on for sustained periods of time.
The house is timber kit and should be fully insulated.
I have contacted the NHBC but they stated the problem wasn’t structural so they can’t help. I also contacted Dunelm Homes who built the house but they say there’s nothing they can do.
To top it off, three sets of French doors are passing draughts badly, and my son’s room even leaks in from the outside when it rains.
Please give me some advice – I feel like I’ve been conned.
A. It does sound as though you’ve had a difficult time and I sympathise with you. If you are running electric underfloor heating in a draughty house then this will have an impact on the amount of electricity you use.
There are some steps you can take to complain and seek redress so let’s take your problems one at a time.
Assuming the central heating you refer to is mains gas heating, most obvious problem is the misinformation you’ve been given about type underfloor heating you have.
The whole point of the EPC is to give a homebuyer a better idea of the cost of running the heating, hot water and lighting in their new home. If the calculations on the EPC are based on incorrect information about the mode of heating, then the assumptions made about heating bills will be incorrect.
Whilst you haven’t received a bill yet, you’re clearly concerned about the rate at which your meter is spinning and the fear is that your first bill will be significantly higher than the amount estimated on your EPC, even allowing for fuel price increases since the EPC was produced.
There are two agencies who should take responsibility for this error in your EPC – the domestic energy assessor who created the certificate and your estate agent.
Contact the assessor – their details should be on the EPC – and ask them to re-assess your property based on your concerns that they took into account the wrong type of underfloor heating. Whilst mistakes can be made, it should be up to your energy assessor to put this right. If you have any problems with that, or if you don’t get a satisfactory response, you can contact their accreditation scheme – again these details will be on the EPC.
A correct EPC should at least give you a better idea of what your heating bills should be in the future.
You may also consider it worth complaining to the estate agent who sold you the home. If the home was incorrectly advertised as having wet underfloor heating then you have a case. If you have a copy of the original ad in which the claim was made, you’ll be in a much stronger position.
You have a number of avenues of action available to you. Your first should be to complain in writing to the agent themselves. Clearly they have misinformed you and given that electric underfloor heating is generally more expensive to run than wet underfloor heating, that misinformation is going to cost you money.
If they do not give you a satisfactory response, or if they fail to respond within eight weeks, you can pass your complaint on to the property ombudsman. They have the power to censure agents and to make financial rewards of up to £25,000 if it is proven that you have suffered actual financial loss as a result of the actions of the agent (although the reality is that the amount awarded is generally much less). You may be able to get an award that will contribute towards the higher energy costs or pay for some draught exclusion measures on the windows and doors.
You can also check to see if the agent is registered with any other professional bodies such as RICS or the National Association of Estate Agents. These organisations also have a complaints procedure and the power to censure estate agents if wrong doing can be proved.
Now let’s look at the problem of draughty and leaky doors.
80 per cent of new UK homes are covered by the NHBC (National House Building Council) Buildmark warranty and Dunelm homes built in 2007 are no exception. Under the terms of the warranty, a builder’s responsibility for putting right any defects expires after two years. For properties between three and 10 years old, the responsibility for putting right any damage caused by defects in specified parts of the home rests with the NHBC through their insurance policy.
Unfortunately, with the exception of a failure in the glass, doors and windows are not covered by the NHBC warranty. However, NHBC do point out that the water leakage may be caused by something other than the windows for examply an underlying defect in the cavity tray or the damp proof membrane around the wall. It's worth getting in touch with them again, specifically in relation to the leakage and seeing what they say.
In fact, I called both Dunelm Homes and the NHBC about your problems, and both organisations immediately offered to contact you directly to discuss your particular concerns. Please get in touch with me through the website and I will give you the details of the people you need to speak to. Do let us know how you get on.
In the meantime, have a look at the draught-proofing information on our website - there is lots you can do to minimise draughts, and it will make a difference to your energy bills.
Finally, if may be wishful thinking but if you have any money left over after the purchase of your house, and you have a suitable site, have a think about installing solar panels to generate your own electricty. The bite of the underfloor heating won't be so painful if you're using your own supply and the feed-in tariff scheme means you'll get an income from them too.
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