Fuel Poverty Action are glad to see the CMA’s recommendation for regulation of heat networks – which is long overdue – and the acknowledgment that while some customers benefit from District Heating, others are trapped with high prices and regular outages. With the government poised to release £320 million of public money for heat networks this autumn, consumer protection is urgent. As well as regulation, this protection must be built into low carbon planning requirements. And it must include protection from the common problem of overheating, summer and winter.
However, one outstanding issue does not seem to have been addressed, despite FPA specifically raising this with the CMA when they consulted us, and in our response to their Statement of Scope (a response they do refer to in relation to reliability): The huge demands on leaseholders for capital when a heating system is deemed to require further expenditure — often extending beyond repair to major extension or improvements.
Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action said,
“Demands for tens of thousands of pounds each, on top of high standing charges for maintenance, go beyond what leaseholders can be expected to budget for and are not reasonable: freeholders and heat suppliers are in effect asking these individual householders to finance an infrastructure development in UK heating.
“This is similar to the demands being made on residents of tower blocks clad in the same combustible materials as Grenfell Tower, who are also being asked for five figure sums to remove and replace their own cladding. Here too, the materials chosen by developers were not chosen by residents, and they should not be asked to pay the cost for others mistakes or cost-cutting decisions. Many simply do not have the money to do so.”
The very weak legal position of leaseholders in the UK has recently been the subject of much debate in the media and in Parliament including a recent debate led by Leasehold Knowledge, with input from residents of many residents associations.
FPA have worked with leasehold residents in several estates who are fighting such demands in court, who would be ready to speak to the media.
“On my estate over 80% of leaseholders have moved out or now rent their flats and live elsewhere outside of London to pay the debt.”
“Many of the leaseholders are pensioners and they are simply too old to move and organise renting out their dilapidated flats, the money will simply come from their food.”