New measures to improve the EPA process in France

EPA RexelConducting an Energy Performance Assessment (EPA), called diagnostic de performance énergétique or DPE in French, has been compulsory in France since 2006 when selling a residential property, and since 2007 when renting one out. The French government has just announced a series of new measures to improve the process. These will come into effect on 1st January 2012.

How the EPA works:

The EPA, or Energy Performance Assessment, is a technical report that classifies housing into seven categories, based on their energy performance (insulation, state of the heating system, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.).

Devised as part of the French Environment Round Table, the assessment is based on a simple observation: that by improving the clarity of information regarding the energy efficiency of a residential property, it is possible to make progress in environmental standards and consumer buying power concurrently.

Differences in the cost of energy can indeed vary quite significantly from one dwelling to another, depending on how well insulated and equipped they are. As the French Minister of Ecology, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, said when announcing a series of new measures aimed at improving the EPA, “a poorly insulated house has an energy bill of some 2,200 euros per year, whereas this can be reduced to 250 euros in a low-energy building.”

The EPA thus allows individuals to anticipate the energy costs associated with a particular dwelling. If the assessment yields a poor rating, the buyer or tenant has leverage for negotiating a lower price, which is an incentive for the property owner to offer a more energy-efficient dwelling. If the rating is good, everyone is a winner: the property owner has official proof recognising the energy efficiency of the property and thus increasing its rental or sale value, and the consumer knows that they will achieve energy savings.

New measures to come into effect on 1st January 2012

Public reaction to the EPA has actually been rather favourable. According to a survey conducted by the IFOP group in 2008 for ADEME, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, 91% of French people have a positive opinion of the EPA. Unfortunately, though the process may be simple on paper, it sometimes seems difficult to apply in reality. Cases of fraud have tarnished its image, and certain consultants were not trained well enough to perform an accurate assessment.

On Tuesday 13th September, Benoist Apparu, the French Secretary of State for Housing, and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing, announced a series of six measures aimed at improving the EPA:

  1. An official document will be provided to the seller, buyer or tenant to improve the transparency of the EPA. EPA consultants must be able to justify their conclusions to the private individual.
  2. The number of elements taken into account for the EPA will be doubled. EPA consultants will now have to establish a rating based on sixty criteria, rather than the previous thirty.
  3. EPA consultants will now be required to use one of the eleven software programs approved by the ADEME for performing the assessment.
  4. The assessments will be submitted to the ADEME for statistical purposes.
  5. The number of qualifying examinations necessary to work as an EPA consultant will be increased. Continuing professional development will be compulsory for all EPA consultants. It is also worth noting the creation of two separate examinations: one for residential buildings, the second for other types of building (public, private, etc.).
  6. The Ministry will create a directory of EPA consultants and publish it online, in order to reduce the risk of fraud. This directory will also serve as a tool for the French Office of Fair Trading.

This series of measures should also help to improve the structure of the new “EPA Consultant” role.  Performed by real estate professionals, the role is recent but is already generating a growing economy: the turnover in 2010 is estimated to have reached between 450 and 500 million euros.

Note: The EPA is not the only compulsory assessment that has to be carried out prior to selling a property. Here is a reminder about which checks to perform (in French): http://droit-finances.commentcamarche.net/contents/immobilier-acheter-logement/a70-les-diagnostics-obligatoires-avant-la-vente.php3

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