Software fiasco penalised house vendors over energy certification

An Ombudsman’s investigation revealed that the Building Regulation Office could not certify houses’ energy efficiency certification

The software used to certify Maltese houses’ energy performance broke down in 2007, causing a suspension of the certification system that had consequences for house vendors.

An Ombudsman’s investigation revealed that the Building Regulation Office could not certify houses’ energy efficiency certification, because between 2007 and 2011 it had problems with software that caused the suspension of the EPC scheme.

But when the resources ministry in 2009 decided to enforce the rules, the responsibility for providing the EPC was placed on developers who had applied for a development permit after January 2009.

This led to a complaint from a property vendor who, eight years after having sold his property, was asked by the BRO to submit an energy performance certificate on the building he had sold.

He contended that demanding such a certificate when the building could have undergone alterations and refurbishment, was unjust and unreasonable, especially since the certificate would not necessarily reflect the state of the property at the time of the sale.

Additionally, there was never any indication on the impact the rules might have had on property owners who had sold their property. And no information campaign alerted the general public as to the wide-ranging implications of the EPC rules. As a result, owners who sold their property were unaware of the obligations imposed by the regulations.

“Even if they had been aware, it would have been impossible to observe the regulations until the end of 2010, as the system was not functioning,” the Ombudsman said, who found the complaint to be justified as property vendors were being treated unjustly once the failure of the system prevented them from submitting an EPC at the time of the sale.

The BRO told the Ombudsman it was prepared to accept present-day certificates even though the property transfer had taken place years back.

But the Ombudsman said that previous owners were not in position to guarantee that they would be able provide an EPC as they had no access rights over the property. The BRO was criticised for issuing such demands under the penalty of fines for non-compliance.

“The delay in implementing the regulations could also have been due to a lack of resources, and it was recommended that the BRO be provided with adequate resources to undertake its obligations efficiently, in view of the important role that it played in the implementation of energy performance Directives and Regulations,” the Ombudsman said.

The BRO stated that they would be seeking to obtain the EPC from the purchaser and not from the vendor.