Assessment body calls for insurers and industry to put pressure on MCHLG
The trade body for Air Conditioning Inspectors has urged the government to act on enforcing mandatory air conditioning inspections.
The Property Energy Professionals Association has called for a joined-up approach from the assessment sector and insurance companies to encourage the government department responsible, the MHCLG, to enforce compliance.
Under the Energy Performance of Buildings regulations it has been mandatory to have AC systems with an output of over 12 kW inspected, at least every five years. The regulations were introduced as a European directive in 2012 and amended for England and Wales in 2020.
Mike Gordon, PEPA director and Scheme Manager for Sterling Accreditation said that over a decade ago MHCLG estimated that there were 48,000 centralised systems and 750,000 packaged systems in operation that met the criteria for mandatory inspection.
Now, however, MHCLG have advised that these figures cannot be relied upon as they are out of date and the department said it now believes that there are only 163,000 buildings in England and Wales that are air conditioned.
But PEPA contends that this figure is hugely understated, estimating that a conservative figure would be 520,000 air conditioned buildings in operation in England and Wales.
Against this conservative estimate, PEPA says, the current level of inspections that have been undertaken is woefully low – less than 12 per cent.
Mr Gordon said: “The lack of compliance is not surprising, given the almost total absence of enforcement…County Councils defer to Local Councils, who then claim they have neither the funding nor the resources to enforce legislation in this sector.”
The Government’s 2020 ‘Guide to air conditioning inspections in buildings’ says: “If the control of an air conditioning system is passed to another person and that person has not been given an air conditioning inspection report by the previous operator of the system, the system must be inspected within three months of the new operator taking over control of the system.” Given this requirement, says Mr Gordon, it should be straightforward to enable an air conditioning inspection to be required alongside the Energy Performance Certificate which is legally required whenever a building is sold or let.
“If no report is available, the advice from the solicitor would be to ensure that the new operator obtains an air conditioning inspection report within three months.”
Another route, he says, would be to make it a condition of a building’s insurance.
“It would seem logical that as part of a building’s annual insurance renewal, where a building has air conditioning, an insurance company would require a copy an AC inspection report in order to provide cover. There are a number of risks associated with air conditioning systems that could affect a building, its function and its occupants.”
PEPA has also been attempting to get the central register of EPCs and DECs to include an alert on air conditioning inspection reports that have reached the end of their five-year validity and have not been replaced. It says it is continuing to push the central register to provide this report.
According to MHCLG guidance, Trading Standards is usually responsible for enforcing the requirements, but PEPA says that in many cases County Councils defer to Local Councils, which then claim they have neither the funding nor the resources to enforce legislation in this sector. Mr Gordon says that non-compliance fines would help provide this funding: “Based on our estimates of noncompliance, the revenue from fines at £300 per system would be in excess of £32m.”
A further £200 penalty can be issued if a report is not provided seven days after the Trading Standards requests it. But this £500, says Mr Gordon, is still not punitive.
“The fines, particularly when related to larger buildings, is more than likely less than the fee for an assessor to complete the inspection and as we know that enforcement is nonexistent there is little incentive for a system owner or operator to have an inspection carried out as invariably a fine will not be issued.”
This contrasts with the penalty for not having or displaying a Display Energy Certificate regulations is a combined £1,500, which PEPA believes is more reasonable.
He said: “Setting the fine for noncompliance with the Air Conditioning Inspection regulations to £1,000 would certainly help provide some incentive to system owners/operators to obtain an inspection report, but fines are only valuable if they are being issued.”
PEPA has an online form enabling anyone, from the industry to the public, to report a non-compliant building. This is then followed up by PEPA with a letter to the Declarations are followed up with a letter from PEPA, which is addressed to the building.
However, the Association believes this letter would carry more substance if it came from MHCLG or as a minimum included the MHCLG logo to reflect the official status of the document.
Companies interested in helping the lobbying efforts can email PEPA.
Leave A Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.