Over half of renters in Scotland are worried about paying their energy bills this winter

Over half of renters in Scotland are worried about  paying their energy bills this winter

  • 58% say they worry they may struggle to pay their energy bills and, 58%, their rent
  • 57% of renters say how they will pay their bills overall is an everyday concern
  • 72% of renters say landlords could do more to make their homes more energy efficient

Tuesday 7th December 2021:  With the current fuel crisis seeing an increase in energy prices, ongoing hikes in household bills are proving to be a major concern for millions of households across the country, including the UK’s renters. 

Over half of renters surveyed in Scotland (57%) are worried about how they will pay their bills, with 64% saying these concerns are having a negative impact on their mental health.  Just under two-thirds (58%) say rising fuel costs will make it difficult for them to pay their energy bills, with 58% indicating they may struggle to pay their rent this winter.

The research, commissioned by Smart Energy GB, has revealed that renters think landlords could be doing more to help, with 42% saying their energy bills could be better managed if their landlord made their home more energy efficient.  27% of renters don’t feel their landlord supports them enough in terms of being energy efficient and managing their energy costs, with 80% of renters who do not feel that their property is as energy efficient as it can be concerned that a current lack of energy efficient measures will make their energy costs even higher.  In terms of things that renters feel their landlords could do to make their homes more energy efficient, they would like their homes to be better insulated (61%), with other popular initiatives including having drafts filled in (56%), boilers upgraded (54%) and double glazing installed (46%).

Although 64% of tenants say being in a rented property restricts their ability to manage their energy use and costs, they are making their own environmentally friendly changes and adapting their behaviours around the home.  Turning off lights topped the list (62%), with 60% turning off appliances when they were not using them.  They are also less likely to turn the heating on, with half (50%) renters saying their heating remains switched off, even when it’s cold.

Additionally, 64% of tenants say having a smart meter would help them manage their energy costs, with 55% secure in the knowledge that, if they are the one paying the bills, they can have one installed by their energy supplier without the permission of their landlord.  Alarmingly, some renters have been put off doing this as, not only did they think their landlord would not like it (14%), they were also concerned they may lose their deposit (9%).

Kate Faulkner, founder of Propertychecklists.co.uk, said: “A great first starting point for landlords in terms of helping their tenants to take energy saving steps is to arrange for a smart meter installation, if they are the bill payer. Or if their tenant is the bill payer, to empower them to request a smart meter installation. Smart meters can also help ensure any problems with utility bill payments at the end of a lease are avoided and better still, the less money tenants spend on their utility bills means the more likely they are to be able to afford their rent payments.”

Smart Energy GB and Propertycheckists.co.uk have developed five tips on how landlords can support their tenants to be more energy efficient:

Job #1: Get a smart meter
A smart meter is the new generation of meter. Just like cars have more electronic kit, such as sat navs, keyless entry and diagnostics to understand what’s wrong, a smart meter provides in near-real time information via the in-home display on the user’s gas and electricity use, in both Kwh and in pounds and pence, so tenants and landlords better understand what drives their bills up. This helps households understand how they can make changes to their energy use - and save money.

Even better, just like technology has made it easier to diagnose what’s wrong with a car, smart meters will save everyone time and money by sending the actual readings to the energy supplier automatically.

Job #2: Check what eco features the property has already

Depending on the age of the boiler, newer ones will have an ‘eco mode’ which you can turn on that can save money as it stops water being preheated. The downside is it takes a little longer for hot water to come out of the tap, the upside is, it can save money.

Job #3: Use LED lighting

Whether you pay the utility bill or not, either fit LED lights yourself, for example, before you re-let the property or, if you have a tenant already in the property, advise them they could save around £40 a year by fitting LEDs. You could even consider gifting the tenant some bulbs to support them following the utility cost rises.

Job #4: Fit thermostats on radiators

If you haven’t already fitted them, thermostats on radiators can really help tenants only heat the areas required, or boost the areas they are living in most, keeping some heat on in rooms used a lot less. I have these and they are my main way to keep the different rooms I use at different times nice and warm, as well as save money on my bills.

Job #5:  If renovating or upgrading a property, fit insulation 
A great way to keep costs down for tenants is making sure roof spaces, walls and floors are insulated, basically ensuring less heating is required to keep a home warm. This is a pretty cost-effective way to help tenants (or yourself if you are the bill payer) as something like 25% of heat loss is via the roof, and if installed by a professional, it should deliver savings for around 40 years.

Iagan MacNeil, Head of Policy, Smart Energy GB said: “Households across the country are seeing their energy costs going up, so it is more important than ever that landlords do their bit to make their tenants lives easier when it comes to managing their energy use and bills, as well as increasing the energy efficiency of their properties.  Smart meters are useful in that they provide automatic billing and greater visibility of energy use in near real time, so tenants know in pounds and pence how much they are spending each day. It is a bill payer’s right to have a smart meter, so we hope that landlords responsible for the energy bill will consider installing a smart meter or work with their tenants to get them installed in their rental properties.”

Frazer Scott, CEO, Energy Action Scotland, said: “Smart meters are an incredibly important part of the energy revolution. They unlock the potential for greater choice in the energy market. The information they provide can support households to take greater control of the energy they use. For pre-payment households they can help through ease of top up which during the earliest phase of the pandemic caused significant hardship. Landlord support and encouragement to install smart meters can only benefit tenants and a more sustainable tenancy can only be good for landlords.”

Smart meters - making life easier

It is a bill payer’s right to instal a smart meter, if they pay for the gas or electricity in the rented property.  If the landlord pays the bills, the decision lies with them. 

Smart meters provide automatic billing and greater visibility of energy use through the in-home display.  With a smart meter in prepay mode, it is possible to top up in a variety of ways from your own home and know when you are close to using your emergency credit. 

A smart meter installation takes as little as two hours and can be scheduled at a time to suit you. Landlords do not need to be present for the installation, but it’s good to let them know a smart meter is being installed, just in case there is a clause in your tenancy agreement.

If your tenancy agreement says you need your landlord’s permission to alter metering at your property, Ofgem the Energy Regulator, says that they should not unreasonably prevent it.

Contact your energy supplier to request a smart meter at no extra cost or visit smartenergygb.org.

Notes to editors

Research was carried out by OnePoll for Smart Energy GB and surveyed 118 Scottish renters 19/11/21 to 23/11/21.

About smart meters and the rollout

Smart meters are the next generation of digital gas and electricity meters, providing automatic meter readings and near-real time energy use information for households and small businesses.

Smart meters and the information they provide will help Britain to achieve net zero by allowing for better management of energy demand and supply, providing people with the visibility needed to reduce their usage, and making the best and most efficient use of wind and solar power. Innovative technology and services enabled by smart metering is pivotal in allowing our country to decarbonise and have more electric vehicles. 25.2 million smart meters have already been installed across Britain.

About Smart Energy GB

Smart Energy GB is the not-for-profit, government-backed campaign helping everyone in Britain to understand the importance of smart meters and their benefits to people and the environment. Our national campaign is reaching homes and microbusinesses across England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit smartenergyGB.org

Smart Energy GB media contacts

For more information including interview requests, case studies of smart meter users, infographics, photography and video content please contact the Smart Energy GB media team:

Helen Kelly: Helen.Kelly@smartenergyGB.org; 07921 458 041

Tracey Jennings: Tracey.Jennings@smartenergyGB.org; 07753 216 140

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