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Insulation: Households could save £300 in new insulation scheme

Insulation: Households could save £300 in new insulation scheme


Households could save around £310 a year through an expanded scheme to insulate Britain’s draughtiest homes, the government has said.

It will spend £1bn from next spring on grants for homes that have low energy efficiency ratings and are in lower council tax bands.

Households will need to contact their energy supplier or council to see if they are participating, it said.

But critics questioned why the funding would not be available over winter.

The Department for Business, Energy, Industry and Skills (BEIS) said households who currently did not benefit from any other government support would be able to upgrade their homes under the ECO+ scheme.

The grants will help households to fund low-cost measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation, with the average cost per household expected to be £1,500.

A new £18m public information campaign will also offer advice on how to reduce energy use in the home, “without sacrificing comfort”, BEIS said.

Some of the government’s tips include:

  • Turning the “flow temperature” of your boiler down from 75⁰C to 60⁰C (which is different to turning down your thermostat). It is often done by adjusting a dial on the front of your boiler. It will make no difference to the temperature a room is actually heated to but may mean it takes longer for your rooms to heat up.
  • Turning down radiators in empty rooms
  • Reducing heating loss from the property by draught-proofing windows and doors

Mr Shapps said the ECO+ scheme would “enable thousands more to insulate their homes, protecting the pounds in their pockets and creating jobs across the country”.

Without insulation, indoor temperatures are difficult to maintain, and homes can lose up to 45% of their heat, according to the Energy Savings Trust.

In a typical three-bedroomed semi-detached house in the UK, the Energy Savings Trust estimates that installing draught proofing measures plus cavity wall and loft insulation could save £555 on an average annual energy bill.

Insulation measure savings and costs

“We’ve spent around £6.6bn on improving millions of homes so far,” Mr Shapps told the BBC. “This is actually a scheme for people who have been left out thus far because their homes haven’t qualified.”

But shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds told the BBC the measures were “so late when we should have been doing so much more for so many years previously”.

He also accused the government of a lack of ambition when it came to plans to end the country’s dependency on fossil fuels.

An already existing ECO scheme is targeted at people in social housing, on low incomes or who are fuel poor.

However, under the expanded scheme, people whose homes have an energy efficiency rating of D or below can get help, whether they are in private, rented or social housing. Energy efficiency ratings run from A-G, with A being the best and G the worst.

Applicants will have to live in properties covered by council tax bands A to D, according to reports.

If you are eligible for support, your energy firm will do a survey and pay for the improvements.

Despite targeting middle earners, the government says about a fifth of the new £1bn of funding will be reserved for the most vulnerable households.

Fuel poverty campaigners welcomed the measures but said more needed to be done to help those most in need.

Adam Scorer, chief executive of National Energy Action, said the “scheme is not designed to reach the most vulnerable, it’s designed to reach people who haven’t been able to benefit from previous schemes”.

“We believe government focus should be on the worst first, helping people in the greatest risk, the greatest jeopardy, more of this money should be going to help them.”

UK lags behind

The UK is often described as having some of the oldest and least energy efficient housing in Europe.

Two years ago, BBC research found 12 million UK homes were rated D or below on their Energy Performance Certificates, which means they do not meet long-term energy efficiency targets.

Currently 46% of homes have an energy efficiency rating of C or above, up from 13% in 2010, according to BEIS.

In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a new target, to reduce energy demand by 15% by 2030.

BEIS said this target would be backed by an additional £6bn investment after 2025.

Mr Hunt said the ECO+ scheme would help “hundreds of thousands of people” to improve the insulation of their homes.

Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Georgia Whitaker said nearly seven million homes were suffering fuel poverty, while 19 million homes in England and Wales are badly insulated.

“This is a drop in the ocean compared to what people actually need to stay warm and well this winter and in the winters to come,” she said.

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‘Government acts to protect tenants’ says Gove in landlord clampdown

‘Government acts to protect tenants’ says Gove in landlord clampdown


Housing Secretary Michael Gove has made an announcement overnight that “the government will always act to protect tenants.”The claim comes as part of an announcement giving cash to seven areas to clamp down on rogue private landlords. At the same time there is to be a cash squeeze on failing social landlords, as a result of the tragic death of Awaab Ishak.The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has revealed overnight that £14m is to be given to seven areas with high numbers of poor privately rented homes “to crack down on rogue landlords and test new approaches to driving up standards.”
Projects include £2.3m for Greater Manchester – including Rochdale and surrounding councils – to increase the use of fines where a landlord is found to have committed an offence; £678,000 for Leeds to use behavioural science to change culture among landlords, improving knowledge and skills; and £1.14m for Cornwall to create a database of private rented accommodation in the area and record standards to target better enforcement action.Meanwhile the social landlord at the heart of the Awaab Ishak case – Rochdale Boroughwide Housing – will now not receive its expected £1m funding from the Affordable Homes Programme or receive any new AHP contracts for new homes, until the Regulator of Social Housing has concluded its investigation and it can prove it is a responsible landlord.Gove says the government will also continue to monitor housing standards of RBH tenancies closely, working with the Regulator and Ombudsman, to ensure that tenants have appropriate housing.As part of a wider crackdown on poor standards, Gove adds that he will also block any housing provider that breaches the Regulator’s consumer standards from new AHP funding until they make improvements. Gove will also consider stripping providers of existing AHP funding, unless construction has already started on site.

The move comes after Gove wrote to all councils and housing associations last weekend, saying they must raise the bar dramatically on standards and demanding urgent action where people complain about damp and mould.

Gove says: “RBH failed its tenants so it will not receive a penny of additional taxpayers’ money for new housing until it gets its act together and does right by tenants. Let this be a warning to other housing providers who are ignoring complaints and failing in their obligations to tenants. We will not hesitate to act.

“Everyone deserves the right to live in safe, decent home and this Government will always act to protect tenants.”

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Investors scramble to dump UK property funds as valuations dive amid widening Kwarteng mini-budget chaos

Investors scramble to dump UK property funds as valuations dive amid widening Kwarteng mini-budget chaos


Following last week’s bond market turmoil, which sent shockwaves through the City, investors are now scrambling to exit UK property funds.Since the new chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, presented his Mini-Budget at the end of September, the pace at which investors are pulling out of UK commercial real estate funds has accelerated.In the 10 days following Kwarteng’s presentation, more than £100m alone was pulled from a range of property funds that are monitored by fund trading provider Calastone, according to a Financial Times report this week. This was reportedly eight times the outflow of the previous three weeks together.

City analysts now warn that the scramble to flee property funds may lead to property being offloaded at depressed rates.

Commercial property markets are already suffering from higher borrowing costs and given the fact that deal-making has slowed makes it harder for key players to determine realistic evaluations.

“One way or another those assets are going to have to be sold into a down market,” said Zac Gauge, head of European real estate strategy at UBS in the FT.

Gauge and other property analysts expect sales property to change hands at up to 25 per cent less than earlier this year.

Roger Clarke, head of IPSX, an exchange for property, said in the FT that there is a crucial flaw in the structure of funds that usually allow buyers the opportunity to exit at just a day’s notice.

“The funds are forced to sell their best assets.”

Roger Clarke

“The redeeming investors are then getting their redemption at the expense of the rest of the people in the fund [if valuations decline],” he told the paper.

“So the rational investor puts in a redemption request,” said Clarke.

Fire sale

The turmoil in the property market follows other reports that, in a near-unprecedented rush by British pension funds to raise their cash holdings, Goldman Sachs and a range of other investment giants are planning to snap up UK assets at discounts of up to 30 per cent.

Since Kwarteng’s disastrously received mini-budget at the end of September, UK pension funds are rushing to improve their cash holdings by selling liquid assets.

Kwarteng’s mini-budget caused outright panic in the gilts market, which forced the Bank of England to step in.

Despite the Old Lady’s intervention, pension giants are now planning to put a range of illiquid assets on sale, including private credit, property and stakes in buyout vehicles, according to various reports, including the Financial Times.

“We’re seeing discounts of 20 to 30 per cent for a high quality portfolio [of stakes in private equity funds],” Gabriel Möllerberg, a managing director at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, told the FT.

“It’s absolutely an opportunity,” Möllerberg stressed.

In addition to Goldman Sachs, other investors, including Blackstone, have the fire-power to buy pension fund holdings trading at below face value prices.

City A.M. understands Blackstone currently have no plans to do so.

Wave of takeovers

The transactions are usually negotiated and agreed privately and may take up to several months to close but investors are convinced the City can expect a wave in the final months of this year, the FT wrote.

“In these market conditions, you get very attractive buying opportunities,” according to Ross Hamilton at Switzerland-based private equity firm Partners Group, which buys pension schemes’ private fund stakes.

“We’ve got dry powder of over $9bn . . . it’s an exciting opportunity for us,” Hamilton told the paper.

Most British pension funds zoomed in on illiquid assets as they were keen to pump funds into investments that returned higher yields.

Many pension funds moved into illiquid private markets in search of higher yields during a decade of low interest rates. However, that tide turned drastically earlier this year.

“There’s a cold wind blowing for more illiquid assets,” concluded David Lloyd, fund manager at M&G, in the FT.

He stressed pension schemes are bracing themselves for cash demands from buyout groups whose funds they used to finance takeovers in recent years.

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You may not like landlords but we need them

You may not like landlords but we need them


Sounds of wailing and gnashing of teeth drift down from the rooftops. They are emitted by landlords, not a social group as likely to evoke pity as are widows and orphans. They nonetheless feel embattled, threatened with legislation to end so-called no-fault evictions, together with increasing taxation. They warn of a contraction of the housing rental market, even as millions of people are unable to buy.

They point to the example of Scotland, where similar legislation and a rent freeze have provoked just such a shrinkage. In February the Scottish Association of Landlords claimed a 50 per cent year-on-year reduction in properties being marketed to let, which it largely attributed to the SNP government’s policies.

This is an issue that touches almost all of us, as lessors, lessees or parents of children who rent. Whereas in 1988 (all the figures below are government-sourced) just 9 per cent of householders were private tenants, today that figure has doubled because of the pincer consequences of the sell-off of the public housing stock together with soaring purchase prices.

A friend laments that his daughter, aged 32 and earning £120,000 a year, cannot afford to buy. Another friend describes how his daughter, a medical student, has suffered miseries at the hands of an owner unwilling or unable to mend a broken boiler. It is terrifying to read that the average 2021 monthly rent in London was £1,597, compared with £572 in the northeast.

Since 4.4 million UK households occupy rented accommodation, the government’s summer white paper A Fairer Private Rented Sector made front pages. Because most British people, unlike Europeans, rent only from necessity rather than choice, they feel imprisoned by their predicament and, not infrequently, by their landlord.

The Renters’ Reform Bill inspired by Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary, looks like a vote-winner which the homelessness charity Shelter applauds as a game-changer for tenants. Last month ministers promised that the measure will be introduced in this parliament.

Yet there is another side of the story. Precisely because property is so widely unaffordable, a healthy private rental sector is indispensable. As are landlords. If legislation bears down too heavily, some at least will abandon letting, sustaining the current upward pressure on rents caused by shortage of supply.

Landlords point to the paralysis that overtook the pre-Thatcher market, when it was almost impossible to evict tenants in rent arrears, a situation ended only by her 1988 Housing Act. They argue that if the weight of regulation continues to increase, those bad old days will return. They instance the ever-more rigorous requirements for energy performance certificates and the costly health and safety standards that do not burden owner-occupiers.

Many landlords already experience difficulties and, above all, long delays in expelling antisocial or non-paying tenants. A contested eviction can cost £3,000-plus in legal fees, along with many months of lost rent. If an owner behaves decently and performs necessary maintenance, it is hard to get rich out of most lettings. There is no special virtue in small landlords as against big ones because the former often lack the support machinery to maintain properties efficiently.

My wife is one of 43 per cent of all landlords who lets just one property, her former home. This yields a modest net return, considerable worry and once, a few years ago, serious pain. A solicitor who had heard of me telephoned to ask if we had just sold a house in Fulham. No, I responded. Odd, he said: somebody had certainly disposed of such a property in our name. We proved to have been early victims of what became a notorious scam. A crook had rented, paid an accomplice to secure a passport in my wife’s name, “sold” the house and vanished.

Fortunately for us, the Land Registry had not endorsed the sale but the buyer’s six-figure payment vanished for ever to Dubai. We challenged the failure of the letting agent to smell a rat, not least when the “tenant” whom they had recruited paid thousands in cash. They shrugged that they were mere rent collectors. Nothing to do with us, guv. The firm proved reluctant even to surrender the tenant’s deposit to make good the mess.

That was an extreme case but the small minority of bad tenants — one owner suggests that they constitute 5 per cent of the total — inflict serious loss. He says: “We love good tenants, but the defaulters can cost a fortune.” The same friend, one of the 18 per cent of landlords that have five or more properties, feels ground down by ever-more demanding health and safety requirements, and ever-increasing restraints on getting problem cases out.

The proposed legislation will allow tenants to appeal against rents to a tribunal which will have power only to lower, not to increase, amounts, thus granting appellants a free pass. The government promises to end automatic rent review clauses in leases and to tighten lending criteria for buy-to-let mortgages.

Those of you who have read thus far may still not be shedding tears for persecuted landlords. Why not? First, because property owners are by definition “haves”. Meanwhile, unless one lives in Eaton Square or Wimpole Street on one of the huge, fat aristocratic Grosvenor, Cadogan or Howard de Walden estates, many tenants are relative have-nots.

Next, we feel guilty about the estimated 2.8 million people who live in “desperately low-quality homes”, to quote the white paper. We also know that, historically, the landlord-tenant relationship was tilted too heavily in favour of the former.

At regular intervals, cases hit the headlines of tenants monstrously treated by extortionists, latter-day Peter Rachmans. Statistically, these are few, because the law provides the protection absent in the 1960s. Each such story, however, feeds the characterisation of landlords as oppressors of the vulnerable.

Having read most of the white paper and talked to rival advocates in this debate, there seems merit on both sides, as is the case with almost all vexed issues. Whitehall appears in danger of overreach, however; of so overloading landlords’ regulatory burden that ever more turn to the Airbnb option as an alternative to long-term lets. In the government’s eagerness to please millions of tenants and their lobbies, it may neglect the fact that landlords also need rights in order to stay in business.

Successive governments flunk the core problems. Foremost is the national housing shortage, much influenced by indulgence of elderly voters’ nimbyism. Gove, introducing his white paper, spoke of a need to “support the vast majority of responsible landlords who provide quality homes”. Yet the planned legislation promises a degree of tenant protection that can scarcely fail to squeeze the rental sector even as mortgage interest rates rise, worsening the unaffordability of purchase. We need more, not fewer, private landlords.

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Sustainable Warmth Grant available for eligible households and Private Landlords

Sustainable Warmth Grant available for eligible households and Private Landlords


THURROCK Council are working with an Essex wide energy partner called Warmworks to help households who are eligible in the borough to become more energy efficient.To be eligible for the scheme your home must be rated as Energy Performance Certificate E, F or G, or you have a household incomed below £30,000.Cllr Luke Spillman, Cabinet Member for Housing, said, “This is a wonderful offer for those living in properties who are eligible and help for private landlords, the funding is a grant that does not have to be repaid.

“Thurrock Well Homes Team are identifying the properties that are known to the council as having a low Energy Performance Certificate, to work with residents in making their home more energy efficient.

“If our homes are running more efficiently, this will ultimately bring the energy bills down, which is some relief given the current cost of living.”

Improvement measures available by the grant include: insulation, low carbon heating systems, solar panels, ventilation, energy efficient lighting and more. Please note, gas and oil boilers are excluded from this specific funding.

The funding covers the cost of improvements up to £10,000 for properties that are on mains gas, and up to £25,000 for homes that are not on mains gas.

There is funding available for private landlords. However, a 33% contribution from the landlord is required and the maximum funding per property is £5,000.

For more information on the sustainable warmth grant, and to submit your application with Warmworks, please visit, or contact Thurrock Well Homes Team by emailing: [email protected] or calling: 01375 652 391.

For more information on cost of living support visit

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HMRC steps up search for landlords with undeclared rental income

HMRC steps up search for landlords with undeclared rental income


Landlords are being encouraged to get their accounts in order after an accountant specialising in buy-to-let property warned that HMRC is intensifying its efforts to track down those with undisclosed income.Since the government launched its Let Property Campaign in 2013 – an initiative which allows landlords to declare unpaid tax in return for a discounted penalty – more than 58,000 disclosures have been made to the authority and approximately £250m has been recovered in unpaid taxes.Despite this success, HMRC has been intensifying its efforts to track down landlords with undisclosed income, and many landlords are now facing demands for back payment of taxes and associated interest, as well as facing large fines.

Penalties for undisclosed income can be hefty, ranging from 10% and rising to 100% of the rental income in some cases. Furthermore, landlords who receive letters demanding payment from HMRC will pay substantially more in fines compared to those who declare their income voluntarily.

Donna McCreadie, a buy-to-let specialist at Perrys Chartered Accountants, commented: “HMRC has numerous ways to find individuals who haven’t declared rental income, and their resources for investigating are extensive.

“These include gathering information from HM Land Registry and Stamp Duty tax returns, reviewing reports from lettings agents and tenancy deposit scheme providers, carrying out online searches, making door to door enquiries, receiving reports from members of the public and collecting information from other government departments, such as the electoral register.

“The law allows HMRC to go back up to 20 years and, in some cases, HMRC may carry out a criminal investigation.”

“It is important to remember that not declaring rental income is a criminal offence,” she added.