Difficult winter ahead

We’ve already seen that the hike in energy bills have left small energy suppliers on the point of collapse. Over a million UK energy customers are now awaiting a switch to a new provider. The knock-on effect of the energy price rising will also mean that many households face the prospect of being plunged (further) into fuel poverty.  

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently announced that the Consumer Prices Index measure of annual inflation rose to 3.2%. This means that the cost of living is rising higher than since records began in 1997. 

The government is withdrawing the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. Public sector pay is being frozen. The furlough scheme is due to come to an end and the National Insurance rise will have a more profound effect on those in low pay. 

The reality is that this will leave more households forced with a decision whether to pay for rent, food, or fuel. 

Low-income households are those most likely to be on pre-payment meters and the most likely to self-disconnect i.e. simply stop paying for gas and/or electricity. A sustained period without adequate heating being utilised in the property may lead to condensation and mould growth if the tenant is also keeping the windows closed to retain the little heat they have. This could have a harmful effect on the health and wellbeing of the household and potentially a deterioration of the property condition, leading to disrepair. 

In terms of rising rent arrears, it is already a requirement under the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords that the landlord should contact the tenant, as soon as reasonably possible, to discuss: the cause of the arrears; the tenant’s financial circumstances; the tenant’s entitlement to benefits; and repayment of the arrears. 

The Warm Home Discount Scheme opens on 18 October 2021 which could entitle the tenant to a one-off discount on their electricity bill, between October and March. Further, the discount does not affect Cold Weather Payments or the Winter Fuel Payment. 

This contact also represents an opportunity to discuss whether the tenant is having to spend a higher proportion of their income on energy than expected. There may be issues with draughts and damp which would result in their home costing more to heat.  

The Committee on Fuel Poverty’s Annual Report is due this Autumn but the interim report can be viewed here 

From the Interim Report, longer term there will likely be a push for social housing properties to be a minimum EPC Band D standard by 2025 and a minimum of EPC Band C by 2030. It is anticipated that this will be robustly enforced. 

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If you need support or advice on any of the issues mentioned here, please contact our team of experts who will be happy to help.