Date Published 13 April 2012

Rightmove and the other big property portals are set on a collision course with the Government over EPCs.

Although the CLG has given what it must have thought to be unequivocal advice, in a new debacle the portals are advising that they do not need to produce EPCs for their online listings, saying the advice is unclear.

The Q & A advice from CLG says:

Q. `Do the regulations also apply to electronic written particulars on internet sites?`

A: `Yes.`

The same advice defines written particulars as containing two or more of the following: photo, floorplan, room sizes or measured area of building, and, in the case of a rental property only, price.

Whilst this would take in virtually all lettings listings, which almost inevitably include both a property photo and the rental price, agents arguably would only need to leave a floorplan out of their sales particulars to be let off the hook in terms of having to show an EPC.

However, a cursory glance at a number of online listings yesterday showed that 100% of the properties for sale EAT looked at all contained, or led directly to information containing, photos, floorplans and room measurements. All, however, had the pre-April 6 EPC graphs with them, before the requirements changed. (Actually, one property didn't have any EPC with it at all – see the link at the end of the story.)

The portals are insisting that their listings are adverts and not particulars, and EPCs do not need to be carried. However, like CLG, they are putting the onus for legal obedience totally on agents.

Rightmove has emailed all of its agents, saying that in their view, ‘the new regulations do not place any additional obligations on Rightmove, although you may wish to consider separately how the new regulations might affect your own company website'.

Yesterday evening, a Rightmove spokesman confirmed: `The new EPC requirements apply to property particulars. Rightmove is a property advertising website and the information displayed on Rightmove by all our member agents takes the form of adverts and not property particulars. This is clearly stated at the bottom of every page on Rightmove that displays details which have been provided to us by the agent about a specific property, and will continue to do so.

`We have communicated this to Rightmove member agents and it remains our view in light of the most recent DCLG statement clarifying the new EPC requirements. We do, however, understand that some member agents may wish to display the full EPC as part of the property advert on Rightmove.

`Rightmove does provide the functionality for agents to do this if they so wish, either via their datafeed provider or through a manual property upload.`

Zoopla is taking the same stand. A spokesman told EAT: `Zoopla provides a medium for agents to advertise properties, much like newspapers. It is the advertisers' responsibility to ensure that their adverts comply with all relevant legislation.

`Our interpretation of the recent changes regarding EPCs do not require agents to include EPCs in all property advertisements which would include newspaper advertising, online ads, etc. That said, we do encourage our members to upload the full EPC report with their property adverts as this provides useful information for potential househunters.`

A spokesman for CLG said yesterday: `Where a property or letting agent intends to make more detailed information about a building available, either on their own website or another property portal, and the information provided meets the definition of written particulars, then an EPC must be provided with those details.

`The onus will be on property and letting agents to ensure that an EPC is provided with those details, not the website designer or the company who operates the property portal.

`As far as property portals are concerned, the requirements of the Regulations were circulated widely and published on the DCLG website, and Page 8 of this policy document clearly indicates that written particulars on property portals are required to display the EPC.`

Notably, Rightmove has been careful to use the wording ‘in our view' in offering its advice, whilst Zoopla stresses ‘our interpretation'.

Even CLG has opened the doors to a field day for lawyers, prefacing its own Q & A advice as follows: `The Department is unable to provide legal advice and in any case we cannot provide a definitive interpretation of the law as only the Courts are able to do this…

`…You may need to consult the legislation itself to see how it applies in your circumstances; it is your own responsibility to ensure that you comply with the legislation. Should you require further clarification you should seek your own legal advice.`