Scottish couple left £11,000 out of pocket after home insulation scam as complaint numbers soar
A Midlothian couple have lost out on almost £11,000 after falling victim to a home insulation scam.
Fiona Barton, 60, and her husband Andre had spray foam insulation fitted into their loft in Newtongrange in a bid to bring down their energy bills.
However, Ms Barton said her “world fell apart” when she was told she couldn’t sell her home because of the insulation, and had to pay a further £6,000 to have the foam professionally removed.
Trading Standards Scotland is urging people to always say no to cold callers offering to insulate their homes, as these types of scams have increased by 42 per cent in the past year.
Ms Barton had the spray foam insulation installed in December 2022 after being contacted by scammers who “sounded very professional and believable”.
She said: “We’ve been cold called in the past, with people phoning us to say ‘the government can give you a free survey of your loft’. So when they said ‘we can check your loft out’, I assumed it was a similar sort of scenario.
“They came and said our loft was very, very damp and that they had ways and means of improving it. They sounded very professional and believable, otherwise we wouldn’t have gone ahead with it.”
Ms Barton said the scammers then “spun the story” their loft was not adequate.
She said: “Spray foam insulation was something I’d never heard of before and they trapped us by our non-knowledge of the product. I did a quick search for the company’s website and of course the reviews were all five stars – but what I didn’t do was a search on spray foam insulation, because then I would’ve realised this wasn’t a great thing at all.”
The scam became clear when Ms Barton went to sell her house and the home report surveyor pointed out the problem.
“He [the surveyor] said that having spray foam insulation meant that anyone trying to buy the house wouldn’t be able to get a mortgage,” Ms Barton said. “That was when my world fell apart, because we’d already bought our next house and we had to sell in order to move.”
The couple have since managed to successfully get the faulty insulation removed and were able to move into their new home – but are now almost £11,000 out of pocket. They are hoping to recover both the original cost of installing the foam and the removal costs, but their claim is still ongoing a year later.
Figures from Trading Standards Scotland show 158 people complained about insulation scams last year, compared to just 111 in 2022 and 66 in 2021. Collectively homeowners have lost £500,000 to insulation scams in the past year, with an average cost per consumer of between £4,000 and £8,000.
Another customer in North Lanarkshire is also thousands out of pocket, after paying £9,000 to have this insulation installed in January last year. It was installed incorrectly, blocking the ventilation points, which could lead to damp and rot, with a £10,000 bill received to have it removed.
Councillor Maureen Chalmers, chair of Trading Standards’ governance board, said: “Dishonest traders and companies are attempting to exploit the cost-of-living crisis and are targeting those who want to make their homes more energy efficient, providing misleading information about products and implying that funding or grants are available for their products.
“Don’t engage with cold callers offering ‘free’ loft or roof surveys and never accept information offered from these sources without doing independent research, particularly if they tell you there are grants or funding schemes available. Don’t agree to get an assessment done by a company who calls you – they will not be impartial.”
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