Hard-up tenants switching off heating as they can’t afford it, report warns

Picture: John Devlin
Picture: John Devlin
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Hard-up tenants are disconnecting heating systems in their own homes as they can’t afford to use them, a survey of housing associations across Scotland has suggested.

The report was published ahead of a Scottish Parliament vote this week on the Fuel Poverty Bill, which will set a target on the eradication of the problem north of the Border.

Official figures estimate that over a quarter of households live in fuel poverty, which is presently defined as those which spend more than 10 per cent of total income on household fuel.

A survey by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) published today found that a majority reported an increase in tenants self-disconnecting their own power or heating due to fuel poverty.

Seventy-three per cent of respondents said they had noticed an increase in the number of tenants experiencing or at risk of fuel poverty.

Wider poverty issues, rising energy prices and increased fuel debt were also given as reasons for increasing fuel poverty.

In one response, a staff member from an Argyll and Bute-based housing association said: “A number of tenants have stopped using heating because they can’t afford it… mostly it’s because they don’t want another bill to worry about, so they do without whenever possible.”

Sally Thomas, the SFHA’s chief executive, said: “It is shocking how many people are struggling to afford to heat their homes.

“Social landlords are working hard to make homes more energy efficient and reduce the cost of heating them for their tenants. However, in order to end fuel poverty, it is vital social landlords are eligible for grant assistance from the Scottish Government.”

But the Scottish Government said recent national figures showed that across the country, fuel poverty rates among housing association and co-operative tenants had fallen 10 per cent between 2014 and 2017.

A spokeswoman said: “We don’t want anyone to be in the position of disconnecting their heating. By 2021 we will have allocated over £1 billion to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency, making people’s homes warmer and cheaper to heat.

“A variety of funding sources are also available to help social landlords meet the energy efficiency standard for social housing and improve the 
energy efficiency of their properties.”