Category Archives: Information & Advice

Articles and blog posts related to all manner of home improvements for both installers and consumers. Product/installation information, tips and advice.

Consumers Beware: Some Installers are Falsely Claiming HICS Membership

As a consumer it is important to research the installer that you are going to use for your home improvement project as you want to be sure that they have the memberships that they say that they have. Unfortunately, there are some installers that falsely claim to be a member of HICS. If this has happened to you as a consumer or if you suspect an installer is purporting a HICS membership, please read on for our advice on what to do.

1. If an installer is claiming to be a HICS member, submit the details to the HICS team via the HICS website.

In the first instance, please check if the installer is a HICS member by submitting a contact form via the HICS website. You can do this by going to the contact page on the HICS website.

To do this, please select ‘Check a member’ on the request type within the contact form, fill in the required fields, type your message, and click send. This sends your request to the HICS support team and one of the team will get back to you as soon as possible with any further information.

2. Send HICS evidence that the installer is trying to mislead consumers.

Should we find that the installer is not a HICS member, please email us any proof you may have of their supposed HICS membership. This is important so that we can take necessary further action regarding the false claims by the installer.

If you are unsure if your installer is telling the truth and holds a HICS membership, we urge you to please double check with us. Our aim is to protect consumers from rogue traders so if you suspect that an installer has falsely claimed HICS membership, please let us know straight away using the methods outlined above.

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How safe are you from cyber threats?

cyber threats

Do you truly know how safe your business is from cyber threats? The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has launched a Cyber Aware campaign which provides Government advice on how sole traders and micro businesses can stay secure online.

The latest phase of the Cyber Aware campaign has recently been launched and includes a self-assessment tool that will help sole traders and micro businesses by allowing them to check how safe they are from cyber threats. The tool also provides advice on any areas of improvement.

What tools are available?

Micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees and sole traders can download the following which will help them to navigate the digital world in a secure way:

The above action plan includes important information and advice on how to stay secure online. The recommendations that the Cyber Action Plan includes stem from the below steps:

  1. Use a strong and separate password for your email.
  2. Create strong passwords using 3 random words.
  3. Save your passwords in your browser.
  4. Turn on two-factor authentication.
  5. Update your devices and apps.
  6. Back up your data.

There are questions that sole traders and micro businesses can respond to in the Cyber Action Plan and those who do will receive tailored advice on how they can improve their cyber security.

Why do installers need to protect themselves from cyber crime?

A digital world has brought an increased use of emails, online payments and software on computers, but has also brought some risks. Reporting by Action Fraud revealed that between November 2019 and December 2020, the construction sector was in the top 3 sectors that is impacted by cyber crime where the victim was a business.

It is important that installers are aware of how to stay safe in a new digital climate so that they don’t find themselves as victims of cyber crime.

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Tool theft is costing installers over £5.5k

A recent survey by Honcho insurance reveals that tool theft from vans is costing businesses an average of £5,584 with 89% saying that their van insurance didn’t cover the full cost of replacement.

And tool thefts are on the increase. A tradesperson’s van is broken into on average every 20 minutes in the UK and the financial impact is not just on the cost of replacing tools but being unable to work is costing installers an additional £5,892 in missed work. Not only that, but installers can also face negative reviews from customers and suffer reputational damage as a result of not being able to carry out work booked in.

If you live in London, Birmingham or Sheffield, you are most at risk according to another survey by Simply Business, which revealed the main hotspots for van break-ins.

Tools can be a substantial investment so what can you do to protect your van, tools and work?

Security

Fit additional security to your van, whether improved locks, upgrading your alarm, dash cams that can record both in and outside your van, using grills and/or tints, or even investing in a separate safe for inside your van. Also, make sure you take your tools or ladders in with you at the end of the day, even if you have overnight cover.

Tool insurance

Ensure you have the right level of tool insurance that covers the full replacement cost. Tool insurance can be bought separately or usually, you can add it to your business insurance. Remember, not all insurance covers tools left overnight. Make sure you also check the excess.

If you own your van, make sure you notify your insurance provider of additional security features. If you are leasing a van, make sure you check with the leasing company before adding any additional security measures.

Parking

Make sure you park in a safe location that is well lit and visible to others, preferably in an area with CCTV. Also, park smart to prevent thieves from accessing rear and side doors and make sure you take your tools in with you at the end of the day, even if you have overnight cover.

Keep records and mark your property

Marking your tools and business equipment is a must so that if the police do find your van or tools, you can instantly prove they are yours. It is also recommended to keep a note of serial numbers and take regular pictures of the inside of your van, so you have proof for any claims.

 

Source:

https://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/every-20-minutes-tools-are-stolen-from-a-van

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Homeowners in Britain could spend up to £5bn on their homes before Christmas

Homeowners in Britain could spend £4.94 billion before Christmas purely on improvements to their homes and gardens according to research by market research company, Kantar.

Despite the many home improvements that have been made since March this year, homeowners are still saying that they have work to do, of which 60% of respondents revealed they plan to paint their home and 37% planning on fixing or building furniture.

Strategic insight Director at Kantar, Joanna Parman, said:

“The DIY season normally runs from spring until October half term to coincide with warmer weather and longer days. But this is no normal year and, as restrictions tighten again, 25% of respondents are planning additional tasks before the end of October. A larger 34% intend to complete jobs before Christmas. If shoppers follow through with their plans, it will mean an additional £552 million is spent on DIY between September and December compared with last year – including an extra £124 million on garden work and £119 million on homeware items.”

Although the research somewhat speaks for the DIY sector this still provides positive insights for the home improvement and renewable energy sector for those who wish to look to professionals as opposed to DIY. The research also revealed that younger people are more likely to rely solely on tradespeople in the future.

If consumers are planning to bring in the professionals, we would always recommend they use an accredited member of a consumer protection scheme such as the Double Glazing and Conservatory Scheme (DGCOS) or the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme (HICS) or consumer code the Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Scheme (HIES).

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at DGCOS, HICS and HIES, commented:

“Using a trade member of DGCOS, HIES or HICS ensures that consumers are dealing with vetted and accredited tradespeople. Should things go wrong, we can help resolve any problems with access to quality insurance-backed guarantees, industry-leading dispute resolution and free access to an Ombudsman.”

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Green Homes Grant Scheme: Installer Survey Results

With the Green Homes Grant Scheme now in full force we were keen to find out the thoughts and experiences of those in the industry. The scheme was launched to help the industry bounce back after the coronavirus crisis and help homeowners create more sustainable homes whilst lowering their energy bills. The scheme is well underway after launching last month, so, let’s get into the results and feedback on the scheme overall from installers.

The scheme itself

Just over half of respondents (56.3%) thought the scheme was good for the industry.

Some of the reasons behind those who thought the scheme was good included:

“Helping to grow the renewable industry and lower carbon emissions.”

“It is raising the awareness of a wider group of people to the advantages of Green products, therefore expanding the opportunities to create more jobs especially in the current climate of uncertainty of many occupations.”

“Creation of employment opportunities as well as a boost to business after COVID”

And for those who didn’t the scheme was a good idea, some of the explanations were:

“The scheme is kidnapped by large companies with hard sell techniques to create no competition sales and rip the customer off as they are getting a grant towards the cost so can massively inflate the prices. There is no chance of the consumer getting fair, sensible advice and prices from smaller companies to ensure the quality of the installations is maintained.”

“Encouraging lots of time wasters, people wanting something for free, encouraging bad installs and mis-selling.”

“Limited in scope.”

Timing of the scheme

When asked whether installers would like the scheme to continue past March 2021, the majority (68.8%) voted yes.

Installer guidance and accreditation

Installer Guidance

The majority believed that the installer guidance provided around the Green Homes Grant Scheme has not been sufficient at 87.5%.

When asked to elaborate, some of the reasons behind this were:

“Because it took too long to publish company requirements, I have TrustMark but no PAS2030, this was not clear. Now I have to wait 2 months because of the backlog and as usual, this scheme will be exploited as it already is with companies’ piggy backing off others that have all the measures. It’s ridiculous and not thought through even after all the other schemes were a disaster for installers.”

“Everything is too short notice and too tight on timescale. The timescale also wouldn’t be so tight if the information had been available prior to grants opening. The limited information was too vague. Reflects badly on installers and then becomes a rush and more likely to cause problems with installation and supply.”

“It was not issued early enough so that the terms and conditions could be read, resulting in lots of enquiries and quotes to no avail.”

“Encouraging lots of time wasters, people wanting something for free, encouraging bad installs and mis-selling. Any decent installers are busy anyway we don’t need people phoning just to get their third quote, dealing with the enquires is consuming all our time for little if no reward. The fact that we are having to bank roll these installs until we are refunded realistically, we could only install 2 systems. Extend the RHI and ditch this ridiculous scheme.

The process of becoming accredited

Feedback also revealed a 50:50 split on how easy (or not) installers found the accreditation process, and out of those, over 18% thought the process was expensive.

Scheme Operators

The survey revealed that installers used a range of TrustMark scheme operators such as HIES, NAPIT, NICEIC and RECC, with 62.5% happy with the support provided.

Customer – demand and guidance

Customer demand for work

The survey revealed that 50% of installers were currently struggling with capacity for work under the Green Home Grants Scheme. 25% were ‘very busy’ leaving just 25% ‘quiet’ or with ‘no enquiries at all’.

“We can’t manage enquiries and that seems to be an issue with customers saying that they can’t find anyone to get a quote. Need more suppliers and more time to do the work.”

Customer information

The majority of customers have had difficulty with the Green Homes Grant Scheme – 56.3% experienced difficulty around applying for the scheme and 43.8% found it difficult to get information about the scheme.

Job creation

One of the driving reasons behind launching the scheme alongside environmental targets was to also create more jobs within the industry. However, only 25% of those surveyed have to date employed more staff as a result of the scheme.

“As to the question are we employing more staff this may be an option as we are certainly getting lots of enquires, however, it is not so easy to get competent qualified staff.”

Scheme Measures

The measures or combination of measures installers thought were in most demand were:

  1. Air source heat pumps (56.3%)
  2. Solar thermal (56.3%)
  3. Insulation (31.3%)
  4. Glazing (25%)
  5. Ground source heat pumps (25%)
  6. Heating controls (6.3%)
  7. Draught-proofing (0%)

Additional comments from installers

“Companies like mine that have been operating competently installing thousands of properties, having achieved Trustmark, installing a BBA approved product, FCA regulated, Checkatrade and TrustPilot reviews open for investigation should not have to spend thousands more to install under this scheme. Why are only 1000 companies onboard across all products, because companies can’t be bothered with all the red tape.”

“Consumer needs more to be able to tap into local approved tradesman and companies who have a good Trustmark review and are members of a recognised trade association and allow these installers to be considered so the work done is of a high quality with a professional back up service.”

“Good plan with bad planning. The scheme rules should have been released before the scheme opened. For consumers and installers.”

“As a secondary measure installer, the time scale was not long enough the ensure that we would get paid. Not enough guarantee for the installer when primary measures had to be completed and redeemed. We would not want to start an install if the primary measure meant we could not complete in time but the customer would not pay us if that was to happen.”

“The scheme prevents compliance with MCS rules but seemingly nobody has picked this up yet.”

“Limited in scope – would be better if included solar PV to promote the government’s own objectives.”

“I think the RHI is enough and allowing cowboys to install heat pumps on low income properties is a mistake.”

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Latest data shows complaint volumes remain high in the home improvement sector

Latest data shows that Citizens Advice dealt with over 32,000 consumer issues and complaints relating to the home improvement sector over the last 12 months to September 2020.

What is also disappointing for the sector is that out of all defined categories in consumer goods and services, ‘building repairs and improvements’ came second with over 8,500 issues alone. Top was practical energy efficiency advice with over 9,000 issues.

The statistics also show the most complained about issues within the building repairs and improvements category. We have put together the top 5 by volume, with complaints and redress being accountable for nearly 5,000 complaints and faulty, dangerous, and unsafe services received over 2,000 complaints from October 2019 to September 2020. 

Being an accredited member of a reputable home improvement consumer protection scheme, such as HICS, not only helps increase conversion rates but shows a commitment by the firm to providing customers with trust, confidence and peace of mind before, during and after their installation.

HICS members, and their customers, receive FREE award-winning alternative dispute resolution. With an average resolution time of just 3.59 days, HICS helps members save time, money and improve reputation. As a part of your membership you will also get FREE Ombudsman access and FREE independent inspections.

Source: https://public.tableau.com/profile/citizensadvice#!/vizhome/AdviceTrendsSeptember2020/Cover

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Research reveals British homeowners spend £13,000 on special features for their homes

A recent survey, commissioned by Origin (manufacturer of aluminium doors and windows), has revealed that homeowners in Britain are willing to spend an average of £13,000 on special features on their homes.

But what exactly are the features that homeowners are willing to spend on? The results revealed 54% of homeowners prioritised an abundance of natural light, followed by 53% storage and then 52% en-suite bathrooms.

Top 10 most desired features by homeowners in Britain

  1. Natural light
  2. Storage
  3. En-suite bathroom
  4. Large garden
  5. Garage
  6. Outdoor seating area
  7. A great view
  8. A quality front door
  9. Walk-in wardrobe
  10. Kitchen island

The results also revealed that 87% of homeowners would pay more money for added extras with 1 in 10 saying they would be willing to reduce other household expenditure to afford the upgrades that they desire.

What are the features that British homeowners are most likely to pay for?

  1. A large garden, 41%
  2. A garage, 39%
  3. A view, 39%

In addition to this, over 3/4s of British homeowners agree that they would compromise on the size of the house as they consider a large garden, a garage, and a good view more essential than square footage.

Ben Brocklesby, Director at Origin, said: “We conducted this research to get a clear picture of the work that homeowners want to do in order to improve their homes. This provides our partners with market insights that will help them further understand their customers and what homeowners want to achieve. With the trend for outdoor living continuing to rise, it came as no surprise to us that the features that are prioritised are those that link the inside of the home with the outside, including large gardens, outdoor seating areas and an abundance of natural light.”

To find out more about the research, visit www.origin-global.com/advice-centre/added-value

Are you HSE compliant?

The Health and Safety Executive has announced that their inspectors will be checking that construction firms’ health standards are up to date. So, ask yourself, are you HSE compliant?

When are the inspections?

The inspections began on Monday 5th October 2020 and will last for a full month.

Where are the inspections taking place?

The inspections are mainly targeting construction firms and the inspections will be taking place across Great Britain.

What will the inspections focus on?

The inspections are due to focus on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease. To do this the inspectors will be looking at what measures businesses have in place to protect their workers’ lungs. They will be looking at measures regarding the likes of asbestos, silica, and wood dust.

However, should a HSE inspector identify any other areas of concern that are not listed above, they will take necessary actions to deal with them.

They also want to check that construction businesses are protecting their workers from the risk of coronavirus and ensuring that the workplaces are coronavirus compliant.

Why are they carrying out inspections?

HSE has previously carried out this health-focused initiative 3 times making this the 4th. HSE is carrying out inspections as a part of their longer-term strategy regarding health and work. They are carrying out the inspections to improve health within the industry.

Statistics

HSE reports that more than 3,500 builders die every year from work-related cancer. In addition to this, there are also many other cases of workplace sickness and working days lost as a result. [1]

Sarah Jardine, HSE’s chief inspector of construction, comments,

“Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are actually killed in construction accidents.

Our inspection initiatives ensure that inspectors are able to speak to duty holders and visit sites to look at the kind of action businesses in the construction industry are taking right now to protect their workers’ health, particularly when it comes to exposure to dust and damage to lungs.

There are a few simple things that everyone can do to make sure they are protecting their health and their future. Be aware of the risks associated with activities you do every day, recognise the dangers of hazardous dust and consider how it can affect your health. We want businesses and their workers to think of the job from start to finish and avoid creating dust by working in different ways to keep dust down and wear the right mask and clothing.”

[1]  https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/09/24/health-and-safety-executive-cracks-down-on-dust

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Over 50% Of Homeowners Want to Apply for the Green Homes Grant

green home grants

Latest research suggests that more than half of homeowners in the UK are planning to apply for the Green Homes Grant, the government’s latest scheme.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the grant in July’s budget as a part of the government’s plans to get the economy moving again. The grant will allow homeowners and landlords to apply for vouchers from a £2 billion scheme to make their homes more energy-efficient and create local jobs.

MoneySuperMarket surveyed 2,000 people about the Green Homes Grant which revealed that;

  • 51% of homeowners are planning to apply for the scheme and,
  • 26% of homeowners are seriously considering applying for the scheme

The grant will cover at least two-thirds of the cost for energy efficient measures such as insulation and glazing up to £5k. For low income households, the vouchers will cover the full cost up to £10k.

The scheme opens in September and we are awaiting further clarity from the government on what type of energy efficient measures are covered under the scheme and also their definition of ‘accredited suppliers’ to ensure consumers are protected.

The Green Homes Grant scheme is just one part of a wider “green” recovery plan proposed by the Government including £1bn towards making public buildings more energy efficient.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, who manages the schemes, comments:

“It’s great to see the government putting a focus on energy efficient homes and putting money into the industry to help homeowners and installers at this difficult time. However, more detail on the scheme is urgently needed.”

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Up to £5,000 available in the new Green Homes Grants Scheme

green homes grants

What is the Green Homes Grants Scheme?

As part of investment in a ‘green recovery’, homeowners and landlords in England will be able to apply for vouchers from a £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme to make their homes more energy-efficient and create local jobs.

Installing energy saving measures will help homeowners with lower energy bills whilst also helping the environment.

How much can I get?

  • The grant will cover up to two-thirds of the cost for energy efficient measures up to £5k.
  • For low income households, the vouchers will cover the full cost up to £10k.

For example, a homeowner of a semi-detached or end-of-terrace house could install cavity wall and floor insulation for about £4,000 – the homeowner would pay £1,320 while the government would contribute £2,680.

How will it work?

The scheme will launch in September, with online applications for recommended energy efficiency measures, along with details of accredited local suppliers.

Once one of these suppliers has provided a quote and the work is approved, the voucher is issued.

When will the Green Homes Grants Scheme start?

The government has confirmed that the scheme will open in September 2020 for online applications.

What will the grant cover?

Full details have not yet been released but the grants are for improvements to make homes more energy efficient, so, for example, they should cover home improvements such as boilers, insulation and double glazing.

We are expecting the Government to provide a complete list of which energy saving measures are included, and to clarify whether the grant can cover upgrades to existing energy saving measures.

 

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