COVID-19 Guidance for Energy Assessors

Government reaffirms EPC status during COVID-19 lockdown

We have received welcome guidance from MHCLG about issuing of EPCs during the lockdown period. The guidance reaffirms the importance of a EPC as a legal requirement and also updates its guidance for energy assessors carrying out property visits safely at this time. Read the full guidance here.

Government gives updated COVID-19 housing industry guidance

Government has released an "update to the housing industry explaining that work can continue in line with COVID-secure guidance

COVID-19 Update following Government Lockdown Announcement

Secretary of State Robert Jenrick has confirmed that the property market will remain open during the lockdown that commences on Thursday. We would advise all members to follow all the guidelines that were issued during the first lockdown in the Spring. As always the health and safety of our members and your clients are of paramount importance. Please ensure you follow all Government guidance with regards to Washing your Hands, Wearing a Face Covering and Keeping a Safe Distance. Thank you and stay safe.
Please see the latest the revised guidance is on advice about EPC during Covid 19 pandemic. It is now at www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-energy-performance-certificates

The Welsh Government has reversed their ban on domestic work being carried out during their period of lockdown.

We recommend that people consider whether the work can be safely deferred until after this short lockdown. The lockdown is 2 weeks and normal work can continue after this date.

Like other businesses, people working in someone else’s home must take all reasonable measures to ensure to mitigate the risk of coronavirus spreading when working in other people’s households. Please see the guidance on reasonable measures and on working in other people’s homes for more information.

It is also recommended that no work should be carried out in any household where someone is isolating, unless it is to repair a fault which poses a direct risk to people’s safety – for example, emergency plumbing, or carry out an adaptation to allow that household to remain in their property. If attendance is unavoidable (because of an urgent or emergency situation), additional precautions should be taken to keep workers and householders completely separate from each other. In these cases, Public Health Wales can provide advice to tradespeople and households. But no work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

The latest Government guidance can be found here

ESOS Guidance for Lead Assessors re Covid19 site visit restrictions

We have received several queries from Lead Assessors regarding the completion of site energy audits due to movement restrictions during the corona virus pandemic. The Environment Agency for England, NRW for Wales and NIEA for Northern Ireland have agreed the following guidance.

Where site visits are not currently possible you can continue to complete the ESOS assessment without a site visit where sufficient energy use data and other information for the selected site(s) is available. In these instances please keep the information and decision documents in your evidence pack. A recommendation could be that further investigation is necessary for a given site to identify energy savings and these will need to be re-scheduled for completion at an appropriate date.

For organisations who are still required to complete their Phase 2 ESOS commitments they should carry on with this as best they can. If they are unable to complete their ESOS commitments due to Covid 19 restrictions then please let the appropriate regulator know as soon as possible.

Any organisation that has received an ESOS Enforcement Notice will still be expected to comply with the Enforcement Notice or inform the appropriate Regulator why they will be unable to comply. Contact details are provided below.

**UK Regulators Contacts**

England: Environment Agency. ESOS-enforcement@environment-agency.gov.uk

Scotland: SEPA are currently reviewing this guidance.

Northern Ireland: NIEA ipri@daera-ni.gov.uk

Wales: NRW GHGHelp@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

The government has released further guidance (2nd April) on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This new advice confirms that EPC assessments can continue in certain circumstances.

During this stay at home period we appreciate that Schemes are doing their best to maintain business continuity as far as possible.

The guidance from MHCLG is that EPC assessments can continue where properties are vacant or where moving is unavoidable and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay. No assessments should take place if any person in the property is showing symptoms, self-isolating or being shielded.

Additional information on government advice on meeting the regulatory requirement to secure a valid energy certificate on marketing a property during this COVID-19 outbreak can be found here.

The government has released further guidance (26th March) on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This new guidance will be of particular interest to Energy Assessors and Surveyors, regarding surveys and work carried out in people’s homes. We recognise that further questions are likely in response to this guidance, and are awaiting further clarification from MHCLG.

Surveyors

Surveyors should not expect to carry out non-urgent surveys in homes where people are in residence, and no inspections should take place if any person in the property is showing symptoms, self-isolating or being shielded. It may be possible to carry out some of your work online and also carry out urgent surveys on empty properties, or those where the occupants are out of the property or following guidance to stay at home and away from others.

Surveyors should follow the latest Government guidance which currently (26 March 2020) states that work carried out in people’s homes can continue, provided the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).

It is important to ensure Government guidelines are followed, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).

No work should be carried out by a person who has coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, however mild.

Work carried out in people’s homes

Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.

Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two-metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.

No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Stroma Certification continue to monitor the situation relating to Covid-19 and the advice, guidance and instruction coming from Government. The Prime Minister addressed the nation on Friday 20th March to issue further guidance.

The new guidance says people should only leave their homes for one of four reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities such as food and medicine. Shopping trips should be as infrequent as possible
  • One form of exercise a day such as a run, walk or cycle. This should be done alone or only with people you live with
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person. This includes moving children under the age of 18 between their parents' homes, where applicable. Key workers or those with children identified as vulnerable can continue to take their children to school
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where work absolutely cannot be done from home
  • Even when following the above guidance, people should minimise the amount of time spent out of their homes and should keep two metres (6ft) away from people they do not live with.

Whilst the government have issued broad, national instructions, there is the allowance for people to make their own decisions on whether they should travel for work. Stroma have been asked for clarity on this point.

Whilst very much understanding the commercial realities for the assessor community we urge you to:

  • Follow all Government guidance and NHS guidance carefully on a day to day basis in respect of the Covid-19 epidemic
  • Ensure that you complete a specific and detailed risk assessment for each visit that you make, and take heed of the outcome of the assessment. The risk assessment should contain key questions relating to Covid-19, such as ‘has anyone in the property been infected with Covid-19, is anyone currently self-isolating in the property, are there any vulnerable people in the property)
  • If assessing occupied properties, consider suggesting to the occupant that they vacate the property, or isolate themselves in a single room that doesn’t need assessment while you conduct the assessment. Maintaining social distancing (min 2m apart) is key.
  • Think about wearing personal protective equipment such as disposable gloves and a mask whilst on site. Wash/sanitise your hands on entry and departure and avoid touching surfaces whilst on site.
  • Where risks are unknown or cannot be reduced, by following the general guidance issued by government, then you should postpone the assessment, until such a time that it can be properly risk assessed or the risks can be reduced.

COVID 19 FAQs

Can I still assess properties?

Stroma refers you to the guidance above which mirrors the broader advice given by government. Following completion of a risk assessment, covering the risks associated with Covid-19, and if you believe the work is ‘absolutely necessary’ then you can assess a property. If in any doubt then do not proceed with the assessment.

You must heed your risk assessment, observe social distancing and other advice from government and take all other necessary precautions. Make sure you wash your hands regularly, on entrance and exit from the property, and use sanitiser if possible.

You are responsible for your own health and well-being, so keep up to date with the latest government advice.

Stroma welcomes all suggestions and ideas from members at this time and will look to make further contact and representation to the relevant government body. Where members have ideas on how we can get government to help our industry, then please do share them with us via email.

Should I continue to provide evidence for audit requests?

You should continue to submit any evidence requested for audit. Be aware that if you are in self-isolation or are subject to other mitigating circumstances relating to COVID-19, then let our support team know as soon as possible.

Do I still need to undertake a site visit when completing an EPC on an existing property?

Yes, you will still need to complete a site visit as normal. However, you must follow current government instructions, including social distancing advice. An EPC for an existing property can only be lodged following a visit to the site. This continues to be part of the usual Scheme Operating Requirements (SOR) set out by government.

Will I still be able to attend training courses I am enrolled on?

Stroma Certification have cancelled all of our upcoming training courses and office based CPDs due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, until further notice. We will be organising a series of online CPD sessions in the near future, which are currently TBC.

Will billing remain the same?

Yes. Stroma Certification will continue to utilise our usual methods of billing. If you encounter any changes in your circumstances or have trouble submitting payment at this time please contact our support team as soon as you can, so we can discuss alternative arrangements.

Is there any financial support I can access for my business?

The government has announced a range of financial support measures for businesses, details can be found below and on the government website.

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

What’s the best way to contact Stroma Certification?

We have now deployed our remote working plan to keep our staff safe during the Coronavirus outbreak. You can now receive Certification support on 0330 124 9660, or on the email addresses provided below.

Domestic: domestic@stroma.com

Commercial: technicalsupport@stroma.com

SAP: sap@stroma.com

Code: csh@stroma.com

Training: training@stroma.com

Memberships: certification@stroma.com

What is Stroma doing to support Energy Assessors?

  1. Issued guidance in line with government – offering advice on how to remain safe in the role.
  2. Written to the government demanding Financial support for self-employed Energy Assessors and signed this petition https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300336
  3. Suggesting that MHCLG offer zero register lodgement fees for 3 months, once the government takes control of the register (June 12th). This would give assessors some respite whilst getting their businesses back up and running.
  4. If schools are closed until September, it has been suggested by the industry that it would be an opportunity to encourage Local Authorities to get their school stock assessed – it represents low risk, empty buildings where the costs of assessment can be offset against savings for improvement works.
  5. Stroma have asked MHCLG for clarity on how Covid-19 is may impact on the launch Building Regs and therefore SAP 10.2 – the more notice the better so we can plan around this.
  6. Stroma have asked BEIS to explore relaxing the MEES regulations backstop date of 1st April 2020 until 31st July 2020 (or later) to release pressure on landlords and energy assessors. If this proves impossible due to a need to change legislation, we have suggested written confirmation that no enforcement/opening a grace period until such a date.
  7. We have also requested a statement from government relating to the 7 day/28 day marketing requirements to have an EPC ordered (within 7 days) and completed (within 28 days). Stroma suggests that as long as an EPC has been ordered within the first 7 days of a property being listed, and where an EPC cannot be completed with the 28 days due to Covid-19, then the agent is protected. The EPC will need to be produced once government reduces the risk levels. This again will relieve some pressure on the system and on energy assessors to act against government guidance.
  8. Stroma have recommended the organisation of a working group/task force to plan steps that can be taken facilitate energy assessments during a period of minimal activity, and how we can get the industry moving quickly and as painlessly as possible once we have some clarity on end dates on government action (lockdown, social distancing etc). We have suggested that PEPA, our Trade Association, could do this and report back