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Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Green Fraud

A few years ago the government introduced the Home Information Pack for domestic conveyancing in England & Wales. (Scotland has its own way of buying and selling houses). The idea was to make all the information available for the prospective purchaser to be able to make an informed choice.  It was, of course, flawed.  For one thing the cost of buying the pack was more than the fine for not having one, and the pack needed to contain a copy of the Local Authority Search.  The flaw with that is that the Search is a snapshot taken on a particular day.  If plans are submitted for a multi-storey car park or industrial estate next door to your intended purchase on the day after the search was undertaken, then it would not show up.  That is why Local Searches are only valid for six months.  For your Home Information Pack was to have any real relevance, it needed to be kept up to date.  And that costs money, so the government decided that the pack didn't need refreshing after all.  So a property could be on the market for a couple of years and the HIP pack would be out of date.  Just an unnecessary expense.

The packs would also incorporate the latest EU wheeze called the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).  These were produced by Energy Assessors who would visit your home, inspect your lightbulbs and loft space and generally poke about.  They would then (at a cost) issue you with your certificate showing the energy rating of your property.  All well and good, except the figures were based on a formula based on your home's construction. A single thickness brick built house would score lower than a double thickness wall with air gap, but if the air gap was filled with cavity wall insulation then it'd score higher again.  Did that not make the wall a single thickness?  Just asking.

But what if your house was built of stone? And what if that stone was three feet thick? Would that be more or less insulating than brick? What if your house was made of cob, which is just compressed mud?  These house have stood for centuries and appear to be warm and energy efficient, or they'd have been torn down years ago.  It appears that they hadn't made allowances for cob and so anyone with a cob walled house was marked down on their EPC.  If you had the old incandescent lightbulbs in your rooms, that was an environmental sin.  If you had the new fangled low energy bulbs that was saintly, despite the fact that they are full of mercury and can't be put into landfill, and despite the fact that they don't give off enough light and may trigger an epileptic fit in sufferers.

In my job I saw no evidence to suggest that a HIP made the buying and selling of a property any easier.  Eventually the new government abolished them, but kept the EPC which, being an EU directive meant that they couldn't get rid of them.

Since then the government has now introduced the Green Deal.  When the Energy Assessor comes to make his assessment of your property he will also highlight in his report some recommendation that can be funded through the Green Deal.  The work is carried out and the cost is recouped through your bills.  However, there is a sting in the tail.  The amount you owe stays with the property, so if you sell it, the new owner will have to take on the debt.  So it's not all good news.  Just as with renting your roof out to a Solar Panel company, which may make your house unsaleable, the hidden Green Deal charges may also put many a buyer off.

Here's a panel from a recent EPC that I saw-

This house looks fairly energy efficient. The actual score is 71 while according to the assessor the potential is an eye watering 93.  How can this amount of efficiency be attained?  Look at the panel below and it suggests the best ways to improve your score and estimates how much money you might save over the next three years.  So, if you spend between £800 and £1200 on floor insulation you may save- wait for it- as much as £83 over the next three years! At that rate it will take more than 30 years to recoup even the lower figure.
Likewise if you were to spend between 4 and 5 thousand pounds on solar water heating, you may just get your money back before you die- assuming of course that the equipment lasts that long.

Here's another EPC
In this case the property is judged to be less energy efficient than the first. The current score is a measly 53, but wait- the potential is a lofty 79!  And how do they suggest this can be achieved? Look below to where they helpfully suggest some "Top actions you can take to save money and make your home more efficient"
The first, they suggest, may be available with Green Deal.  For an outlay of only £4,000- £14,000 (now that's probably the loosest guestimate I've ever seen) it may be possible to save £687 over three years. That's a remarkably precise calculation, given the loose guestimate.  Spend between 4 and 14 thousand and save £225 a year, meaning it will take anything between 20 and 60 years to recoup the cost- which will be added to your energy bill.  So you won't actually save any money because if you have the work done you will pay through your bill, and if you don't have the work done you'll pay more heating anyway.

It's a scam. A con. A fraud.  A scheme to keep semi skilled clipboard wielding busybody "assessors" in work.