28 September 2017 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The number of landlords and developers facing unlimited fines because of a lack of awareness of the regulations covering heat networks could number in the tens of thousands, warns a compliance expert.
About 17,000 networks have gone through the process of registering sites with multiple tenants, but Michael Gallucci, managing director of consultancy MPGQS, says many more individuals and organisations have missed the notification deadline.
"It is pretty clear that people are perplexed by the requirements for metering," said Gallucci, whose company advises major residential property owners and managers on notification and boiler and MEP issues. "I would urge people to seek professional advice."
He added: "Although regulations are an administrative headache for agents, and an unwelcome cost burden for landlords, managing the process well could help reduce energy bills and develop more efficient buildings."
Gallucci said confusion in the sector is not helped by shifting deadlines creating a "moving target" for compliance.
He said: "Managing agents must ensure their clients comply by reporting information about properties where residents are supplied with heating, cooling or hot water. They may also be required to install meters at occupier level, an obligation that's set to roll out more widely in 2017, spreading the net of those who can be caught out. It's complex but cannot be ignored. Non-compliance with any of the requirements to notify, meter and bill is a criminal offence that can lead to civil and criminal sanctions, including unlimited fines, not to mention damage to reputation."
Driven by an EU target to cut greenhouse gas emissions from their 1990 levels by a fifth by 2020 and to raise standards in heat networks, the government hopes that giving end users data will encourage them to reduce energy consumption.
Under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 even a building owner or manager with a small sub-let is classed as a heating supplier if the tenant is charged for heating, cooling or hot water, whether it's billed separately or included in the rent. Such 'suppliers' were required to notify the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO) by the end of 2015. NMRO can impose civil sanctions for non-compliance with the notification requirements, including compliance notices or enforcement undertakings and financial penalties.
Landlords could face substantial fines if:
- They haven't already completed the notification.
- They are involved in a new development or a major refurbishment and haven't installed meters at occupier level.
- They haven't installed meters at building level on all existing properties they manage or own.