Over the past few years, many local councils including Portsmouth and Havant have run schemes where local homeowners, tenants and landlords could get cavity wall insulation installed at no charge. This was primarily funded by the 'eco" charge on household utility bills with top up or seed funding (often as little as £50 per property) paid by the local authority.
It sounds too good to be true - a pot of money, freely available to improve the quality of our houses.
Well, in many cases, it was....
Many people who took advantage of the scheme found themselves in a 5-way relationship with the company that 'surveyed and sold" the deal and fronted the paperwork, the company that did the cavity wall insulation (CWI), the local authority who paid part of the bill and the energy companies who paid the rest. This was exacerbated for landlords as the work was always done 'in the name of the tenant" even though the tenant was rarely involved - so looking back, many of us have no paperwork or guarantees as what was produced was sent to the tenant and especially with HMO"s, that ensures it never gets to the landlord.
In a 5-way relationship, the installers typically had a field day - do as many houses per day as possible, negligible checks on suitability or quality of work, no one paying the bill with any interest in the standard of work, the homeowner 'out of the loop" should there be any problems. We know of many examples where the walls most in need of CWI where not insulated as they were 'over the conservatory" or near the garden wall / inaccessible down the alleyway. We also hear of cases where cold spots have been created and landlords have damp where they never had it before, either because cavities have been bridged or spots of wall have been badly insulated creating specific problems.
The bad news is that this is not a local problem and the machinery for redress could not be in a worse state. Also, Mark Group, one of the largest installers and the company that did much of the work locally has gone into administration. The good news is that there is an agency, CIGA, whose role is to provide guarantees for CWI.
An article giving the national picture recently appeared in Private Eye and stated that a report commissioned by Amber Rudd when she was Energy Secretary was published last month, to no fanfare. One of the key findings was that although homes can be warmer and heating bills can be reduced with CWI, but it can also go dramatically wrong when - thanks to a botched job or unsuitable property - the insulation ends up acting as a bridge for external damp causing mould and condensation to appear inside the house.
Apparently millions of unsuitable homes have CWI - any that are vulnerable to wind driven rain for example, should not have CWI.
The industry funded guarantee scheme (CIGA) tries to play down the problems, but its own figures show there were 2,497 complaints in the first 6 months of 2016. The report suggests that CIGA has nowhere near enough money to cover repairs to all of the properties that could be affected.
Plaid Cymru MP Hywell Williams tabled an early-day motion last month in the Commons condemning CIGA"s defensive and sometimes hostile attitude to claimants. The Cavity Insulation Victims Alliance says many households that were promised warmer, healthier homes have been pushed further into fuel poverty.
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