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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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7 Reasons to Use Mediation

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and is a process to settle disputes without the need for litigation. Mediation can help resolve issues after a consumer and business has reached a deadlock.

So why use mediation to resolve a dispute?

1) It can save you money

Going to court can be an extremely costly process when you consider court fees and legal fees. Depending on the outcome of the case, you may also be ordered to pay the legal costs of the other party if you have unreasonably refused mediation in the process.

2) It’s quick

ADR is quick, particularly where mediation is involved. ADR providers do have varying average resolution times, so it’s important to inquire about this beforehand.

Our average dispute resolution time is industry-leading at 3.59 days, whereas the UK average ADR resolution time is currently 80 days. (CTSI ADR Report, 2018).

3) It will save you time and resource

Court proceedings can take up a huge amount of time and resource in both preparation and attendance. Businesses can also realise operational efficiencies using ADR services, freeing up considerable management time.

4) It’s fair

Mediators are trained to factually assess the dispute and resolve the dispute with an outcome that satisfies both parties. Mediators do not have full control of the outcome and therefore enable the parties to reach a mutually agreed and fair outcome together.

5) It helps preserve customer relationships and drive better outcomes

ADR can be a less adversarial and hostile way to resolve a dispute. It allows both parties to be heard and have the opportunity to understand each other’s point of view. ADR is less confrontational which can not only reduce stress for both parties, it can also be an important consideration for a more positive ongoing relationship.

6) It’s confidential

Court proceedings are in the public domain whereas ADR can be kept confidential by agreement, safeguarding your reputation. Confidentiality usually extends to what happens in the mediation and any settlement arising out of it.

7) It’s flexible

Alternative dispute resolution can be much more flexible in terms of outcomes. It can achieve outcomes that a court could not order, or to get a result that both parties think is fairer than that dictated by law.

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The Green Homes Grant and “Buy to Let” Landlords

buy to let

With the announcement of the impending Green Homes Grant in September, many homeowners and installers are gearing up ready for installations. However, it’s not only homeowners that should be assessing the energy efficiency of their properties but Buy to Let landlords are included and should be planning now to see if their properties need to be improved too.

With only just over one month until the application process opens for the Green Homes Grant scheme, Buy to Let landlords need to be assessing their properties now, or in the very near future, as the application process is expected to receive high volumes.

Landlords are urged to focus on the works that can be done with the grant funding.

Online applications made by landlords can only be passed to accredited suppliers or “registered local tradesmen” to carry out the works under the scheme.

The grant scheme will fund at least two-thirds of the cost for energy efficient measures up to a maximum of £5,000 for landlords who need to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. Currently, landlords cannot let their properties out if they have an energy performance rating of F or G (unless they qualify for an exemption).

The Chancellor stated that he hopes 600,000 homes will be improved with the grant. The full details of the grants have not yet been published however the information provided so far suggests that the grants will only last for one year so landlords are urged to review their properties as soon as possible to take advantage of the scheme.

The government also hopes that this will create a further 100,000 jobs in the “Green Sector” – one of the important reasons behind the grant, to boost a ‘green recovery’ as we come out of lockdown.

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Positive signs for the home improvement sector as HICS installations soar by over 3000%

home installations

HICS, the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme has seen a huge increase in home improvement installations, up by over 3000% in July as compared to the end of April.

HICS is a leading consumer protection organisation that gives consumers confidence when choosing accredited installers for their home improvement project. The 3000% increase represents over £3m worth of home improvements protected by the scheme.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, who manages the scheme commented:

“These are really positive signs for companies in the sector as lockdown has eased across the UK. Reputable HICS members demonstrate high standards of COVID-19 safety measures, which helps instil confidence in consumers to allow safe tradespeople in their homes to carry out glazing installations and other home improvements.”

The increase witnessed by HICS is also supported by other research in the home improvement sector, including recent research from Insight DIY which showed 55%% of Brits prioritising plans to update their home as the Covid-19 restrictions continue to be eased.

If you’re planning for a new home improvement project, make sure you instruct skilled tradesmen. Ensure they are a member of a consumer protection scheme demonstrating adherence to quality standards and service. Unfortunately, rogue companies are still operating, and scams have been on the increase recently in light of the Government’s Green Homes Grants scheme.

HICS offers real consumer protection, unmatched in the industry, and all of our members have been thoroughly vetted to guarantee exceptional service. Using a HICS member means you receive full protection, including free deposit and stage payment protection, free insurance backed guarantees, free mediation services and free access to an Ombudsman, in the unlikely event we are unable to help resolve a dispute.

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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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Brand Ambassador George Clarke joins us in saying a fond farewell to Nick Ross

Brand Ambassador George Clarke

Alongside HICS Brand Ambassador George Clarke, after 12 years representing HICS and the DGCOS and HIES schemes, Nick Ross has decided to retire this July and I’m sure you’ll join us in wishing him a fond farewell and best wishes for the future.

Our founder, Tony Pickup, first approached Nick back in 2008 because he was a leading consumer advocate and supporter of consumer protection. Nick joined the schemes because he believed that our complete protection was not only necessary for consumers, members and the wider industry but also a reflection of what he himself has always championed.

“Nick Ross, back in 2008 put his name and reputation on the line to support DGCOS and subsequently HIES and HICS. He didn’t do this lightly and without significant due diligence. He always wants to be sure we are doing the right things to advance consumer protection in the home improvement sector and actually look after people that need help. Since then our group has protected over 900,000 consumer contracts and Nick’s unwavering support will never be forgotten. Thank you so much Nick.”

Tony Pickup, Founder

Nick wanted to update members personally and also share a message of support.

“In my opinion DGCOS, HIES & HICS are the gold standard in consumer protection for home improvements. I’m proud that in the 12 years I’ve worked with them they have protected hundreds of thousands of customers. In all that time I’ve had fewer than two dozen complaints, and all but one of those was happily resolved.

Any industry would be proud of such a record. I’m leaving on the best of terms and only do so because my link with consumer journalism is now too far in the past to have real relevance. I wish you, the members, and the schemes, well for the future.”

Nick Ross

Brand Ambassador George Clarke – A Passionate Advocate Of HICS

George Clarke, architect, TV presenter and home improvement champion, continues to be a passionate consumer advocate and Brand Ambassador of HICS.

Widely known for his recent work on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year and Old House New Home, George joined the schemes in 2019 as an ardent supporter of consumer protection and high standards in the home improvement industry, including promoting the use of accredited installers and tradespeople.

George has made a huge impact appearing at shows and events (pre-COVID) with the team to meet members and installers, including, among others, the FIT show in 2019.

“It has been a pleasure working alongside Nick and I wish him well in his retirement. As the Brand Ambassador for HICS, I truly believe it offers the ‘real deal’ in providing robust consumer protection but, even better, they provide the same level of protection and support for the installer.

I know that HICS is serious about raising standards and ensuring that everybody is treated fairly. HICS offers free protection to consumers meaning they can confidently choose a reputable installer knowing they have the right protection in place.

This is also a major asset in the installer’s tool kit. By offering this complete protection, the schemes have seen installers’ cancellation rates fall meaning it’s a win-win for everyone.”

George Clarke, Brand Ambassador