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EPC certificates: a simple guide

If you’ve bought, sold, rented or let a property, you’ll most likely have come across an energy performance certificate (EPC). Introduced in 2007, EPCs give information about the energy efficiency of a property and the potential energy-saving improvements that could be made.

Here’s what you need to know about energy performance certificates.

If you’ve bought, sold, rented or let a property, you’ll most likely have come across an energy performance certificate (EPC). Introduced in 2007, EPCs give information about the energy efficiency of a property and the potential energy-saving improvements that could be made.

Here’s what you need to know about energy performance certificates.

Written by
Dan Tremain
Energy and business energy expert
Last Updated
7 JULY 2023
5 min read
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What is an EPC certificate?

An energy performance certificate (EPC) is a report that tells you how energy efficient a building is. It’s issued after a property has been inspected by an accredited energy assessor.

Each property is rated A to G, with A being the most energy efficient and G the least. Typically, new or recently built homes will have a higher rating than older properties, especially those built before modern energy-saving advancements.

The four-page EPC document contains information about the property’s typical energy costs and recommendations on how to improve its energy efficiency. After the assessment, the assessor will give you a digital copy of your certificate – it’s valid for 10 years from the date of issue.

Why do properties need an EPC certificate?

EPCs were introduced to help reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of our buildings. Under the 2018 Clean Energy Package, the EU Commission used it to further its aims to reduce greenhouse emissions by 40% by 2030 – from 1990 levels. This has subsequently been reinforced in the UK by the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) goal to reach net zero by 2050.

The CCC is now recommending that the government ‘develop and publish new policies (with a clear implementation timeline) to ensure that owner-occupied homes reach a minimum energy performance of EPC level C by 2035, through incentives or regulation’.

EPCs and their recommendations could help all of us identify where we can improve energy efficiency in our homes and do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint.

Is an EPC certificate a legal requirement?

An EPC is a legal requirement if you intend to sell or rent out your home. In most cases, it can be arranged by your estate agent or letting agent. It can also be done directly through specialist assessors.

The EPC document must then be made available to prospective buyers or tenants, free of charge. It’s often included in the property details on property websites. It also goes on the national EPC Register, where it can be easily accessed.

You can search the EPC Register by postcode or certificate number to find the ratings for a property in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. It can also be used to check whether a valid certificate is in place.

Scotland has its own rules. In Scotland, you must display the EPC somewhere in your property, for example, near the boiler or in the meter cupboard. You can also check the Scottish Energy Performance Certificate Register to find an EPC.

If you don’t have an EPC and you need one, you could be fined up to £200.

As of 1 April 2020, all private rental properties in the UK must have an energy performance certificate with a minimum rating of E. Without this, landlords won’t be allowed to rent out their properties to new tenants or renew existing rental contracts. They could also face a fine of up to £5,000. See guidance for landlords from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

Do all properties need to have an EPC certificate?

No, not all buildings need to have an EPC. Exemptions include:

  • Resident landlords who only let out a room
  • Listed buildings
  • Places of worship
  • Holiday homes let out for less than four months of a year
  • Temporary buildings that will be used for less than two years
  • Standalone buildings with less than 50m² of useful floor space
  • Agricultural buildings that don’t use a lot of energy
  • Some buildings that are due to be demolished.

How to get an EPC certificate?

To get an EPC certificate you’ll need to organise an inspection of your property  by an accredited assessor. You can find an assessor using the government’s official EPC register in:

Your assessor must use government-approved software to produce the EPC. They’ll be responsible for the certificate throughout the 10 years it’s valid.

If you’re using an estate agent or letting agent, they should organise this for you. In fact, they can’t actually market a property for sale or rent until they know that an EPC has been commissioned.

How is an EPC done?

The assessor will inspect the building to come up with their energy rating. Deciding the energy rating of a building is a complex calculation based on a combination of factors. The key factors for a home are:

  • The type of construction of the building (including walls, roofs, floors and glazing) and any insulation
  • How the different areas of the building are used
  • Heating, cooling, ventilation and hot water systems, as well as type of fuel used, including renewables such as solar
  • Lighting.

The resident may need to show evidence for things that aren’t easily visible, such as cavity wall insulation or floor insulation. If you can’t supply this, the benefits of this won’t be reflected in your certificate.

This information is then fed into approved software using a government-approved energy-assessment method. The software produces the certificate and the recommendation report for the building.

Recommendations are provided in four categories:

  • Short-term payback (less than three years)
  • Medium-term payback (between three and seven years)
  • Long-term payback (greater than seven years)
  • Other recommendations (based on the energy assessor’s knowledge).

Once the energy assessor has produced the EPC, it must be lodged on the central register. Lodging the certificate will generate a certificate report reference number, which all valid EPCs must contain. At this stage, the EPC certificate must also be provided to the person who commissioned it.

It’s then up to the property owner or the new buyer to decide whether they want to act on any of the recommendations to make the property more energy-efficient. The only exception is that landlords must achieve a rating of E to be able to rent a property to a new tenant.

Frequently asked questions

How much does an energy performance certificate cost?

There is no fixed cost for an EPC. Charges will depend on the size of the property, where the property is, the type of building and who’s carrying out the assessment. Prices typically vary between £60 and £120, but you may see websites offering a cheap certificate for as little as £30. Make sure you get an EPC quote, as you may discover the final price comes out higher in reality.

How long does an EPC assessment take?

It depends on the size of your property, but most assessments generally take under an hour.

Can I get an EPC online?

You can certainly book an EPC online via the EPC register, but the actual assessment needs to be done in person. The assessment only requires a visual inspection, but the assessor will need access to every room in the property, including the loft.

When do I need to get an EPC done?

If you’re selling or renting out a property, the EPC needs to be done with seven days of it being marketed. If an EPC isn’t provided within 28 days, your property must be taken off the market until the certificate is available. If your property is still being marketed after 28 days without an EPC, Trading Standards may serve you with a penalty notice.

How long is an EPC valid for?

An EPC certificate lasts for 10 years. A new EPC isn’t required each time there’s a change of tenancy or the property is sold. It can be used as many times as you need until it expires. If you’ve moved home in the past few years, you may already have a valid certificate.

Top tip

If your current EPC is still valid and you’ve made energy-efficiency improvements, it’s worth getting a new one – if you want to rent or sell your property – as your rating will have improved.

Where can I find an EPC?

If you can’t find the EPC certificate for your property you can get a copy from the official EPC Register for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or from the Scottish Energy Performance Certificate Register.

You can also use the register to find the EPC of another property – for example, if you want to see or check the EPC of a home you’re considering buying. The service is free of charge – you just need the property’s postcode or EPC report reference number to access it.

You can also choose to opt out of the EPC register if you don’t want other people to see your EPC.

Do commercial properties need an EPC?

If you own a commercial property, you’ll need a non-dwelling EPC certificate if:

  • You sell or rent out your commercial premises
  • A building under construction is completed
  • You significantly alter an existing building
  • Changes are made to parts of the building for separate occupation – for example, changes to heating and ventilation systems.

What rating do I need to rent out a property?

As a landlord you’ll need an EPC energy-efficiency rating of at least E. If it’s an F or G, you won’t be able to let your property, even if you already have tenants living there.

If you’re renting out a property and the rating is below E, the law says you must carry out the recommended works shown in the report up to a cost of £3,500 including VAT. If you fail to carry out the recommendations, you could face a fine of up to £5,000.

If the necessary improvements cost more than that, you might be able to register for an exemption.

You might also be exempt if:

  • The work would devalue your property by 5% or more
  • The recommended work has been done, but your rating hasn’t improved
  • Your mortgage lender won’t approve the recommended changes
  • It’s a listed building and the upgrades would ‘unacceptably alter’ the appearance and character of the property.

Did you know?

The government aims to increase the minimum EPC energy efficiency rating for privately rented properties in the UK to B by 2030.

Do I have to act on the recommendations?

Unless you’re a landlord with an EPC rating below E, you’re not legally obliged to carry out the recommendations. However, improving the energy efficiency of your property could help reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint. It might also make your property more attractive to potential tenants or buyers if you wish to rent or sell in the future.

What if I have a question about an EPC certificate?

If you’ve any queries relating to an EPC, you can contact the assessor who carried out the report. Their details, along with the reference number for the EPC, are in the ‘About this document’ section of the report.

Do I need an EPC if I’m not selling or renting my home?

You’re under no obligation to get an EPC unless you plan to sell or rent out your home. But it’s a great way to check on your home’s energy efficiency and find out about ways to improve it. You’ll also be able to see the potential savings you could make by carrying out improvements.

If you want to make your home more energy-efficient, reduce your energy bills and cut down on CO2 emissions, then an EPC could be a really useful document and well worth the cost of getting one done to see the recommendations. Based on a standard occupancy and heating regime, owner-occupiers improving their homes to EPC level C could save over £460 a year on their energy bills, according to the government.

Other simple steps, such as switching energy suppliers, could also make a difference to monthly bills.

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