Green deal and ECO – Know your rights
ECO grants can subsidise heating and insulation work to your home as part of the latest government scheme to reduce carbon emissions. The system is funded by levies on fuel bills which Energy Suppliers then spend to meet carbon emission reduction targets set by government. If they don’t meet the targets they get fined. They pay surveyors to find them clients.
Many Hackney Homes have been visited several times by assessors looking for clients under previous funding schemes for loft and cavity insulation. Some were commissioned by the Council. Some were finding clients on commission from Insulation Contractors working for the Energy Companies. They are now visiting again under the new system. This guidance tells you your rights if you agree to such a survey.
Don’t let strangers into your home
If you are visited by a surveyor first check they are wearing identity badges and be very careful about letting them into your home. Start by asking who they are working for – the law requires “Green Deal Assessors” (GDAs) to tell clients if they are working for a “Green Deal Provider” and any commission they would receive. They lose accreditation if they do not do this but we are interested to hear about sales representatives who try to evade these controls. The best companies only use accredited GDAs to survey homes which makes it easier for you to complain about poor quality surveys.
You don’t have to take out a loan to make your home more energy efficient
The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) advertise the new arrangements as “The Green Deal”. That only applies where homeowners and tenants are prepared to take out a loan to pay for the works. Most Hackney residents are in fact eligible for schemes fully funded from ECO so they do not have to take out loans.
Free assistance with reducing energy costs
The Affordable Warmth programme pays for heating and insulation work for clients who are on qualifying income related benefits. Different Energy Companies are likely to offer different packages of measures as they look for the cheapest way to reduce the household bills of clients. Packages are only offered once the Department of Work & Pensions has confirmed you are on qualifying benefits. Under the old system of benefits if you are on pension/ working tax credits etc and a total income of less than £16,000 you might be eligible. To find out call the Hackney Energy Advice Line on 0800 281 768 so they can check and refer your case. Your own energy supplier, or contractors working for them, may contact you and offer to survey your house. It makes sense to get a survey if you are confident about their identity and it will be done for free. If you are then told you are not eligible for works or that you must make a contribution to the costs you can phone around the Customer Services at the other Energy Providers to see if they can make you a better offer.
The Carbon Saving Communities Obligation (CSCO) is available for all clients in areas of multiple deprivation for loft and cavity wall insulation. Most of Hackney is covered by the scheme and so a lot of insulation companies are “cold calling” to find new clients. You need to take the usual precautions in dealing with such callers (ID checks, see who they are working for, etc.). Take particular care to ensure they will not charge for a survey if you decide you do not want any work done. Be careful not to sign anything that commits you to pay for a survey. If the company tries to charge you contact Hackney Trading Standards Officers on 020 8356 4929 for advice on how to deal with it.
Paying to get more work done
You can choose to take out a loan to get additional energy savings and get an additional ECO subsidy to the total cost of the works. The “Green Deal” golden rule is that the cost of repayment should be less than the savings you make each year. In theory you can raise the finance from any source, including personal savings. If you can get your contribution elsewhere it will probably be cheaper that the consumer credit loan linked to your electricity bill, which the government has developed for the Green Deal. Few Green Deal Providers are already offering such loans but if you are offered a loan check that;
· you are offered a choice of financial options (e.g. extending your mortgage) and
· that you know the penalties that will be charged if you end the loan early (e.g. if you sell your house and the buyer wants you to pay off the Green Deal loan before buying it).
Sustainable Hackney believes the Council should provide a better service to defend residents’ rights and choose between the various offers. More residents will agree to energy saving insulation work if they know the Council is protecting them from fraud. Fuel poverty is one of the biggest causes of ill health in Hackney and more needs to be done to reduce it. We do not expect contractors endorsed by the Council to always offer the cheapest deal as the offers from individual contractors regularly change. We would expect Council endorsed contractors to be;
· reasonably priced and
· subject to quality checks.
If Council approved contractors let you down we’d expect the Council to make sure the works were put right and you were properly compensated.
Tell us if anything does go wrong
Until the new arrangements are developed it is unclear how they will work in practise. We are keen to monitor malpractise and to improve support in Hackney. Call Peter Snell on 079 4117 9129 if you find anything wrong with our advice or to complain about services that just don’t work.
1st May 2013
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