Choosing an energy tariff is the hardest thing in the world ever. Harder than knitting, baking soufflés, achieving cold fusion, or time travel. Even the noble prime minister got confused, but then he is very thick indeed.
Energy is increasingly problematic for tenants, because of yet another emerging con perpetrated by letting agents. When new tenants move in, they try and charge for ‘contacting utility firms about the new occupant’ (no thanks, we did that.) They also try and shackle tenants to one specific supplier, with some making this a term and condition. I suspect it’s unenforceable, since the mantra is ‘choice.’ Why do they do this? Because they are paid commission – even if it’s not the best deal, a practice due to end when agents are regulated into submission.
Tenants do badly when it comes to economising on energy. Many homes, even in the upper price levels are poorly insulated (a Finnish friend was amazed at draughty Scottish homes.) Some councils run schemes which pay for loft and cavity wall insulation, which require landlord’s permission. Why would they refuse? Bizarrely, some do: they are grouchy and uncooperative, seeing improvements as an intrusion.
For private tenants, it’s as if energy saving happens over our heads: we are in extremes bequeathed money-guzzling ‘White Meter’ heating, which we cannot remove. The fact of occupants moving in and out randomly of HMO’s every six months impedes energy saving, economy or switching to lower tariffs.
The fashion for badly laid laminate floors created hurricane-force draughts, and it’s not like tenants, unsure of whether they can stay for longer than six months, will find it cost effective to pay for carpet, curtains and other measures which would make a home warmer.
Also - I am baffled: why are there not more schemes for placing solar panels on roofs (where they work – not all areas bask in the sun) wind turbines and even boreholes for underground heating? Why can’t buildings, especially social housing use natural resources?
Meanwhile, with claimants (including those on a low wage) forced to share houses until they are thirty-five, the situation can be even more fraught, with full out war on anyone co-tenant perceived as wasting energy castigated, ostracised, and asked to leave shared homes.
I know of one HMO where the self-appointed Alpha Male tenant restricted everyone to just two hours central heating in any given day. In a draughty house in Scotland during one of the worst winters on record, his word was law. The place was freezing, and fellow residents were forced to spend evenings wrapped in quilts. On the other, a former fellow housemate was found with an ancient electric heater on full during a heat-wave ‘…as it was nice having warm toes..’
The short-term nature of renting, makes tenants powerless to make choices due to the insecurity of frequent moves. How do you shop around when occupancy is transient and tenuous, and the chances of a house-meeting to sort this out is unlikely when people are working away or enduring shift work? I wish I knew, I really do.