08/05/2009

Commercial Property e-Brief – Air Conditioning System Inspections

The Government has introduced new regulations which will require all air conditioning systems in buildings to be inspected by an energy assessor.

The inspections are designed to improve the energy efficiency of properties, reduce energy consumption, carbon emissions and the overall operating costs of air conditioning systems.

The requirement to get an air conditioning system inspected will depend on when the system was put into operation and its effective output rating.  Systems put into service on or after 1 January 2008 will require an inspection to be carried out within 5 years from the date the system was first put into service.

Systems put into operation before then, will be assessed on their effective output rating.  Systems with an effective rate output of more than 250kW require an inspection to have been carried out by 4 January 2009.  This is likely to include office buildings of 2,000m2 or systems serving meeting rooms which hold a large number of people.

Systems with an effective rate output of more than 12kW will require inspections to be carried out by 4 January 2011.  This is likely to include general office spaces of 200m2 or Retail spaces of 150m2 with high levels of display lighting and illuminated cabinets.

The requirement to carry out an inspection will fall on those controlling the operation of the system. This will usually be the owner of the property. It may however fall on the tenant if they have total responsibility for the building and its services or if they installed their own air conditioning system at the premises.

Most significant is the liability to potential buyers or tenants which may exist under the regulations.  From 4 January 2011 if the person in control of an air-conditioning system changes and the new person is not given an inspection report, the new person must ensure that the air conditioning system is inspected within 3 months of the date they assume control of the system. It will be essential therefore to obtain inspection reports for systems prior to exchange of contracts or completion of a lease.

Local authorities will be responsible for enforcing the regulations through their Trading Standards Officer.  They may act on complaints received, or undertake their own investigations.  If they request a copy of an inspection report this will need to be provided to them within 7 days.

Failure to provide an inspection report when required will lead to a fixed Penalty Charge Notice for £300.00.  The number of fixed Penalty Charge Notices that can be issued has not been fixed, therefore multiple charge notices may be issued until an inspection report is provided.

If you are buying or leasing a property which contains an air conditioning system you will need to consider obtaining an inspection report from the seller or landlord. Failure to do so could lead to you incurring the cost of obtaining a report yourself and being financially penalised.