Ministers have been urged to help homeowners who signed up to Green Deals with dissolved company Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Limited also known as (HELMS) as they are still waiting for claims to be processed, years later.
The company was dissolved in 2016 after more than 3,000 Scottish households were left with long-term debts after signing up to new boiler, home insulation or solar panels. HELMS were approved installers for the governments green deal scheme to help homeowners improve energy efficiency, a scheme which was later withdrawn in 2013.
During the time the scheme was running thousands of people signed up, and many of those have been left in debt. Many people signed up to 25 year long deals which were funded using finance, which many people claim they were unaware of. In fact, many elderly people were signed up to the scheme, including Mary Hunter, 88 from Glasgow who was left with long term debts after she signed up to get a new boiler, solar panels, and insulation. She told the Scottish Herald: “I saw some neighbours getting cladding done and I thought it might be a good idea and would bring down the energy bills but when I asked about it, I was told about solar panels and a boiler and other things as well. I did not need those things, but I was told the government was paying for them as part of a scheme. I signed up and then I started getting these bills through. It said I had taken a loan out for 25 years. I was 82 when I signed up, I would need to be 107 to pay it off.”
There were many others in a similar position that were persuaded to signing up to this, or similar deals. Appeals for compensation are being dealt with different organisations including the Department for Business Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The BEIS has been urged to speed up these complaints’ years later, but they say due to the complexity, these claims are taking time to process.
Scottish ministers have got involved now, as these claims have been outstanding for an unacceptable amount of time and victims have been left with debts up to £11,000 and some even have been unable to sell their homes as the work carried out was done so without the correct warranties and certificates.
A BEIS spokesperson said: “There is a robust process, backed by legislation, for handling complaints about mis-selling of Green Deal plans by Helms. If they remain dissatisfied after approaching their Green Deal provider and the Ombudsman, consumers may appeal to the Secretary of State, who can cancel or reduce loans if the evidence supports this. These cases are being treated as a priority by BEIS.”
What was the Green Deal?
The ‘Green Deal’ was launched in 2013 and allowed homeowners to make energy saving improvements which would not cost the homeowner anything upfront, but it would be paid for through savings on energy bills. So, if your energy bills were £1,000 a year when you applied for the loan, your energy bill plus Green Deal repayments should not have been more than that. But this did not always work in practice, as some low users could have ended up paying more as they used less energy than average. Not only that, but as the loan was attached to the home, rather than the person applying, there were fears it could make a property difficult to sell. In July 2015, the UK government pulled the plug on the scheme, due to low uptake – only about 15,000 Green Deal loans were issued over the two-and-a-half years the scheme was open.