Drive to improve insulation in Scottish private rented sector

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HOMES in the private rented sector in Scotland are more than three times as likely to be rated “poor” in terms of energy efficiency as in the public sector, according to figures from Energy Action Scotland.

The call for more help for private tenants comes at the launch of the Warm Homes Campaign – which aims to increase the numbers of people whose homes are well insulated and thereby reduce fuel poverty.

Despite millions raised by energy companies to increase energy efficiency, the latest evidence suggests hundreds of thousands of people are not getting the help they are entitled to.

Energy Action Scotland has called for the Scottish Government to introduce regulation into the private rented sector to ensure that any home made available to rent was classed as energy-efficient. Currently, three-quarters of local authority and housing association properties have a “good” efficiency rating, compared to 62 per cent of owner-occupied and 52 per cent of privately-rented homes.

People struggling to pay their bills were also encouraged to ring the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699 to get help or advice in reducing their bills and find out about assistance available throught grants, rebates and special payment options. Director of Energy Action Scotland Norman Kerr said: “We all recognise that there are many competing priorities for public expenditure through this period. However, cold homes cost money. Ill-health caused by cold, damp housing is estimated to cost health and social services more than £1 billion every year across the UK. Health services face high demand during periods of prolonged cold weather and much of this demand stems from ill-health resulting from cold homes.

“From this year onwards HM Treasury will accrue huge revenues from hard-pressed domestic energy consumers. We know that without radical change the most severe impacts of the cold will continue to be felt by many of the poorest and most vulnerable households and communities. We hope to demonstrate the major positive outcomes that would result from ambitious and adequately resourced action on cold homes”.

The latest statistics from the Scottish Government show 684,000 households (28.9 per cent) are fuel poor – meaning they spend 10 per cent of their income on fuel bills. Extreme fuel poverty, meaning 20 per cent of income would have to be spent on adequate heat, affected 185,000 households in Scotland.

John Robertson, MP, said: “We have a serious fuel poverty epidemic – with almost 40 per cent of people either fuel-poor or heading that way. The fact that almost half of fuel poor households will not be able to benefit from the system put in place just shows where the Tory-led government priorities lie.

“The real fuel poverty culprits are the energy barons who are profiting from some of the most vulnerable in our society.We need to tackle this urgently so more resources should be dedicated to schemes such as ECO. But, crucially, we also need to tackle the dominance of the cartel-like Big Six.”

Christine McGourty, of the Home Heat Helpline, said: “We are urging anyone worried about keeping warm to call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 to claim the free help or advice they’re entitled to in reducing their bills. It’s free to call and you can also ring on behalf of friends, family and neighbours.”