Tag Archives: heating

Ending the benefits freeze won’t stop families facing the choice between heating and eating

MPs voted to end the benefits freeze by agreeing to increase income-related benefits by inflation on Monday.

While a welcome move, new analysis by Citizens Advice shows that almost 4 in 10 households that seek debt advice and receive these frozen benefits would still not have enough money to cover their costs by 2024 – even if these rises were to continue in future years.

Citizens Advice has helped people such as Sheila, 64, who works part time and receives Universal Credit. Her payments can change on a monthly basis, making it hard for her to budget and cover her monthly costs. She is trapped in council tax and rent arrears, and has had to resort to a foodbank.

She said:

“Quite often I don’t have any electric, so I’m very cold. I can’t even make a hot water bottle to keep warm, or make a hot drink. I have to stay under the duvet.

“Even in the months when I am paid my full Universal Credit and wages it’s still really hard to afford everything, including food.

“It’s all swings and roundabouts, I just don’t have enough money coming in to pay the council tax and rent arrears, the actual council tax, buy food and top up my gas and electric.”

The analysis from Citizens Advice found that the number of people who are unable to cover their living costs has increased since the benefits freeze began in 2016. In the first five months of the current financial year, 40% of the people the charity helped with debt who claim income-related benefits didn’t have enough money to cover their living costs – an increase of 25% since the freeze came into effect.

Citizens Advice is continuing to call for the government to help address this problem by increasing income-related benefits by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) plus 2% for four years, and to recalculate Local Housing Allowance, which determines housing benefit for private tenants. This will help provide families with financial security and protect people from further hardship.

It also argues that changes to benefit levels need to be accompanied by wider reforms to ensure the benefits system as a whole provides people with the right support. This includes ensuring Universal Credit gives people enough to live on by reviewing areas such as the amount of money retained by working claimants, and deductions for those dealing with debts or repaying advance payments.

Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Our evidence shows that increasing numbers of people simply don’t have enough money to make ends meet. While a step in the right direction, increasing benefits by inflation will not go far enough to help solve this problem.

“The benefits system was created to support people in times of need. The government should show it’s serious about meeting this ambition by properly investing in working-age benefits, and making sure fewer families are left in a downward spiral with no way to pay their bills.”

Private renters in poor quality homes face £1,000 higher costs to heat their homes

Three quarters of a million private renters are stuck in the coldest and draughtiest homes, new Citizens Advice analysis reveals.

To heat their homes to a comfortable standard, these tenants face spending £1,000 more than the national average on their energy bills – but are reliant on landlords to make cost-saving improvements.

Citizens Advice analysis reveals landlords could be raking in almost a quarter of a billion (£242 million) per month for letting out homes that will be freezing cold in the winter.

Some 750,000 private tenants are thought to be living in over 300,000 properties in England with the worst energy efficiency ratings of F and G. These renters face more problems with damp, lack of central heating and poor insulation.

Renters living in band F and G homes:

  • Are twice as likely to suffer from damp than any other properties
  • Half a million have no access to central heating or storage heaters
  • Nearly two thirds have no wall insulation
  • Less than half have modern condensing boilers, which have been mandatory for any new or replacement installations since 2005

The average private rent for F and G band properties in England is £174 per week. In addition to this, energy bills are often very expensive in these homes.

Those currently living in the lowest, G rated, properties face spending £2,600 a year to keep warm – more than twice as high as the national average (£1,210), according to research from the Association for the Conservation of Energy.

The Energy Act 2011 introduced a legal requirement for all rented properties to have an energy efficient rating of at least Band E by 2020. All new tenancies must meet Band E standards by 2018.

However, regulations introduced last year means landlords don’t have to take any action that costs them an upfront fee.

Citizens Advice says the government should make landlords carry out improvements costing less than £5,000 that will take homes up to the minimum Band E standard. It also says a new fund – paid for by the stamp duty levy – could be set up to help landlords pay for more expensive improvements.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Thousands of private tenants face a bleak winter in cold and draughty homes.”

“Not only do they suffer more problems with damp and poor heating, these private renters also pay way over the odds on energy bills to keep warm. But with private tenants footing the cost of heating, landlords have little incentive to make upgrades.”

“Our research reveals that many landlords still have a long way to go to bring the worst energy wasting homes up to scratch – so it’s vital the government takes action to insist that all landlords who can afford to – raise standards in the homes they let.”

“If people are happy to take on the role of a landlord – they need to be responsible enough to make sure the property is safe, comfortable and fairly priced.”

Citizens Advice also proposes setting up a new energy improvement fund to help landlords with improvements costing more than £5,000. This fund would be paid for by increasing the stamp duty levy on buy-to-let homes to 4%. This would raise over £200 million to be used for efficiency improvements. The fund could also incentivise landlords to make further improvements that would take their property rating up to Band C.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer at Ipswich Citizens Advice added:

“Next week Citizens Advice Ipswich will be taking part in Big Energy Savings Week to encourage people to check fuel usage and take action where necessary. Private renters are often at a disadvantage as to tariffs or the quality of heating systems. Citizens Advice can help them work out what steps they can take to avoid or minimise fuel poverty.”