The energy performance certificate (EPC) shows how energy efficient or energy consuming your home is. This is done via a label, from A+ to F. F stands for very energy-consuming and A+ for very energy efficient. The EPC also contains recommendations to make your home more energy efficient and therefore achieve a better score.
Since the beginning of October, energy performance certificates have been available to everyone via a new web application from the Flemish Energy and Climate Agency (VEKA). This contains all EPCs for residential homes and apartments in Flanders that were drawn up less than ten years ago. The EPC for new construction will also be available online. For apartment buildings, you can check whether an EPC has been drawn up for the common parts.
EPCs of small non-residential buildings, such as a school, a house with a dental practice or the local bakery, can also be looked up.
Do you want to rent or buy a building or home and check whether the communicated EPC label is correct? Then you can do this via the VEKA web application. Simply enter the address of the building to obtain the EPC label. ‘We regularly see that outdated or exceptionally even falsified EPCs are communicated. With the online tool, the EPC label can now be double-checked,” says Samir Louenchi, Administrator General of VEKA.
Not all information
Not all information from the EPC can be consulted via the web application. If a valid EPC is available for a specific address, the date the EPC was drawn up is stated, as well as the type, the energy score expressed in kWh/m²/year and the EPC label. The remaining detailed information from the EPC is reserved for the owner or tenant.
Potential buyers and tenants can check via the web application whether the data stated in the advertisement is correct.
Please note: just because the EPC can now be consulted by everyone does not mean that the obligation to mention the EPC when you put a home for sale or rent is no longer applicable. Every advertisement or announcement regarding the transfer or rental of a home must at least state the energy score or the EPC label. When transferring a building with poor energy performance, it must also be stated that the building is subject to a renovation obligation.
As a reminder: Flanders has had a renovation obligation since this year. If you buy a house or apartment with a poor energy label (E or F), you must renovate that home to at least label D within five years.
It sounds plausible that this information must be provided in the event of a sale or rental. But should everyone just know how energy efficient a house is or not? Isn’t the government going a step too far by making that information available to everyone?
Ringoot qualifies the privacy aspect and the danger that the database would be misused for commercial purposes. ‘The EPC label is a global building-related issue. It is not of the same order as personal data, such as religion, gender or political preference. The EPC label only shows the overall energy performance of a building, it does not contain any detailed information.’
Entrepreneurs cannot simply deduce from the EPC certificate whether or not you have solar panels or sufficient insulation, it is still said. ‘Bad EPC labels are often associated with outdated, unrenovated houses. In that sense, the tool only adds limited information in terms of renovation options to what is already visible in the street scene.’
If the government believes that additional protective measures are necessary, then I believe there are less far-reaching alternatives.
Lawyer specialized in rental law and privacy
Maxime Korber, lawyer at PC Advocaten specialized in tenancy law and privacy, does have reservations. ‘In its advice, the Data Protection Authority stated that energy performance data can often be linked to a natural person as a unique dataset. If the available data in combination with other elements can lead to unique identification of a person, then I believe the General Data Protection Regulation applies. This means that the personal data may only be processed for lawful purposes and that the processing must be proportionate.’
According to Korber, it is doubtful whether making the EPC data public is a proportionate measure with regard to the goal being pursued. ‘The current rules that require landlords and owners to disclose the energy score of the home with an EPC certificate already offer sufficient guarantees to tenants and buyers of a home. If the government believes that additional protective measures are necessary, then I believe there are less far-reaching alternatives.’
Creative companies that want to send targeted advertising based on the public database are also not given a free pass, says Korber. ‘If a company were to process your personal data and send you targeted advertising, you have the right to object to this. If that company does not comply, this may give rise to further steps, such as a complaint to the Data Protection Authority.’