Housing advice

Energy-saving tenants: Are your bills still strangely high?

Suddenly, we’re in the final months of the year – and with it comes a need to turn up that thermostat! But for many private tenants, the summer was a period of sanctuary from the cost of cold-weather energy bills. For this reason, a huge number of residents won’t be warm enough in their homes this winter.  

We needn’t remind you how unforgiving Scotland’s climate can be, and for those on lower incomes or living in draughty, poorly-insulated homes, winter is even harder. Here’s why: 

  • Around 60% of households living in homes with the lowest efficiency bands were classed as living in fuel poverty.   
  • Fuel poverty means the resident pays more than 10% of their income on utility bills to run a warm, comfortable home. 

By making a few small household adjustments, it’s possible to save quite a bit on your utility bills. But how far does the power of a tenant go? What if you’ve tried everything – from draught excluders to insulating jackets for the water tank – but your bills are still too expensive, even if you know that you don’t consume loads of fuel? 

Check out our video below for a few tips on what you (as a tenant) can do to try and save energy costs, as well as knowing when to contact your landlord. 

When you think of how much fuel you need to heat an inherently cold property – rather than one that’s insulated properly – it’s no wonder some private tenants feel the pinch in winter. My own experience came from renting a tiny studio flat which I assumed would be easy to heat… But after the old gas radiator started leaking and had to be cut off, it could only be heated electrically – and nearly all my walls were external and not even insulated. By winter, it started to feel like I was trying to set fire to an ice cube. (My post-Christmas bill told me my concerns weren’t unfounded). 

Here are a couple of things you should know, especially if you’re searching for a private let:  

  • Properties are given an EPC rating that determines how energy-efficient they are. You should find this on the property’s listing, and you can ask for it if you’re already living somewhere. The ratings span from A (most efficient; costs little to heat) to G (least efficient). 
  • The Scottish Government are considering making sure private rented homes reach a minimum energy efficiency standard (read the consultation here). In the meantime, if your home is in a low EPC band and you’re concerned that it’s poorly insulated or suffers from damage because it’s cold and damp, don’t be afraid to contact your landlord or agent. You might be able to encourage them to make some improvements to the property. 

Check out our Healthy Homes Advice pages for more energy-saving ideas, winter weather tips and advice about fuel poverty. 

You can also get help to check you’re receiving all the benefits you’re entitled to, including payments specifically for fuel costs such as the Warm Home Discount. 

 

About the author

Jocasta Mann

Jocasta Mann

Jocasta is the Digital Content Producer for Shelter Scotland.