You will be able to opt out of having your (EPCs) made freely available on the national database.
Yesterday, the national EPC register run by Landmark, (http://www.landmark.co.uk/) the private firm owned by the Daily Mail, went public amid fears that it would be a snoopers’ charter – enabling anyone to search for EPC information using a postcode.
But in what looks like an extraordinary U-turn, the Communities and Local Government Department has very quietly announced that anyone with an EPC can opt out of making it publicly available for data searches.
The announcement was so quiet that Mike Crompton, corporate communications officer of trade body the Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors, said his own industry was unaware of it: “They’ve sneaked this in under the radar – the reason being that they don’t want anyone to know about it. But people should.
Mr Crompon said: “We are concerned that there are significant security issues: an EPC might say that a property has 90% double glazing which would suggest to a crook that there is a weak entry point somewhere.”
The opt-out is at odds with the uncompromising requirement by Community and Local Government (CLG) (http://www.communities.gov.uk/corporate/) that all domestic EPCs must carry the full addresses of the property and cannot be redacted – a major concern for agents for vulnerable clients such as elderly people, or where properties are lying empty.
Yet, despite the clause allowing opt-out from the EPC database, agents will still be required to attach the front page of the EPC, complete with full address, to all property particulars, including those that appear online, for example on Rightmove.
The database opt-out clause has apparently not been publicised to anyone, with even EPC suppliers unaware of its existence. One said that making the public database go live on a Sunday, complete with the opt-out clause, was simply the CLG ‘burying’ its own bad news.
It appears in a pdf document on the CLG website. A tiny handful of industry providers were apparently sent website links that did not work properly, but others, including Crompton’s own industry body, were kept in the dark.
According to sources, CLG are embarrassed about the opt-out clause and still hoping to keep quiet about it, since if everyone knew about it, there could be opt-outs on a massive scale – leaving the whole idea of a searchable public register in tatters.
In the same note about the opt-out, CLG promotes the idea of a public register, saying: “The register represents an extremely valuable source of information about the energy efficiency of buildings, and the benefits of making use of the data have made it desirable to widen access.”
It says that individuals can look up EPCs for free, and can compare individual properties, whilst ‘authorised’ organisations such as Green Deal providers, local councils, universities and government departments can have bulk access to the data and use if for marketing and research purposes.
Opting out looks to be straightforward and can be done by virtually anyone – owner, landlord, tenant or ‘representative’ – with seemingly no checks.
It simply requires people to define their relationship with the property, file their own names and email addresses, plus the address and postcode of the property concerned, plus its Report Reference Number (RRN) – the of the EPC itself.
Opting out is also mentioned in passing in a new privacy impact assessment of making EPCs public – also made quietly available on the CLG website.
Organisations – for example, insulation firms – will be allowed to write to someone whose contact details have been obtained from the EPC register up to three times. If they do not get a reply, they must delete the person’s contact details from their database. How this will be policed is not clear.
The latest EPC documents are available via the link below. The reference to the opt-out is on Policy Update 4, page 6. (This link might prove unreliable, but should work if you paste it in to your browser.)
What seems to be clear is that the flaw is one related to a security issue. For example a person can search for an EPC that was carried out at HRH Prince William’s home in Anglesey and obtain some information about the property. An additional security threat factor is that the assessor’s details are clearly visible on the EPC. A percentage of whom conduct much of their work from home, and use their home address as their business address. The implications are concerning.
Have you opted out?
Thanks for reading.