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Home energy checks 'can't be trusted'

Watchdog is demanding better regulation of the home energy-efficiency studies required before sales

2 April 2011

A top consumer watchdog is demanding better regulation of the home energy-efficiency studies required before sales.

UFC-Que Choisir found “alarmingly” little consistency in the ratings that diagnostiqeurs (checks experts) allocate to homes for consommation énergétique.

These are important: a good one suggests a home is ecofriendly and economical.

Displaying the rating is now obligatory in property adverts, including in those in estate agents’ windows and online.

First-time buyers eligible for an interest-free loan can receive twice as much for purchasing an older home rated A-D as for one rated E or F, and four times
as much as one rated G.

New-build homes qualify for a loan of 40 per cent of the price (up to a ceiling), but only if they are rated A (otherwise they attract only 27 per cent).

A UFC-Que Choisir spokesman said the body raised the alarm in 2008 over the seemingly “random” attributions and “nothing has changed”. Out of four homes visited by 16 diagnostiqueurs, two were classified in three different categories, one in two, and only one was rated consistently.

One home was classed C,D or E, with consumption estimates of 134kWh to 244kWh/m2/year, per year (a bill of from €1,000 to €1,800).

Diagnostiqueurs look at factors such as the efficiency of heating and air-conditioning systems and how well-insulated the home is. They also estimate greenhouse gas emissions, which results in a separate A-G rating. The studies, valid for up to 10 years, have been obligatory for sales since November
2006 and since July 2007 for rental.

UFC-Que Choisir said that, because of the effects on loans, “the unreliability has consequences even more serious than the poor estimation of the efficiency
itself.”

Despite its previous study, nothing had been done to make the tests more reliable, and furthermore these are the only obligatory home surveys considered purely “informational”, with no legal weight.

It is therefore demanding new rules making the tests more consistent and that buyers should be able to take legal action if mistakes are made, with diagnostiqeurs carrying responsibility.

The problems come as another consumer body CLCV, found that estate agents are not consistently applying the law requiring them to advertise the ratings.

Out of 524 agency windows, only 43 per cent of adverts mentioned the rating and only 23 per cent of agencies followed the law strictly by mentioning it on them all.

On the internet, only 20 per cent of estate agents’ adverts complied.

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