Victims of botched insulation fittings have been ‘abandoned’ with no adequate redress system from the industry or government according to a pressure group.
Faulty cavity wall insulation has caused UK properties to suffer from dampness, wall tie corrosion and mould, costing homeowners thousands to put right.
Mass cavity wall installations were carried out across the country after successive government-backed schemes obliged big energy companies to cut carbon emissions and make homes more efficient, the current scheme, Energy Company Obligation (ECO3) will run until March 2022.
Cavity Insulation Victims’ Alliance (CIVALLI) founder Pauline Saunders said: “The government will say there is a redress system but there isn’t, in practice it doesn’t work.
“It has ignored all the historical cases and they have been abandoned.”
Door-knockers persuaded millions of people to have the material fitted, but experts say it was installed in unsuitable homes where cavities were too narrow, full of rubble, or where weather conditions made them unsuitable.
The pressure group has been contacted by 1,500 people whose homes were wrecked by faulty or mis-sold insulation but some of these installation companies have now gone into liquidation.
Mrs Saunders said people have fallen back on their guarantees, issued mainly by the industry-funded Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA), but have often been told by the company that cavity wall insulation did not cause the damp and mould.
“They will blame poor maintenance, lack of maintenance, next door’s cat… they will blame anything rather than a faulty installation,” she said.
Each Home Counts, a 2015 government-commissioned independent review, recognised poor quality installations were being carried out by unskilled companies without ‘core values’ and encouraged an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to be set up as an alternative to court action.
But Mrs Saunders explained that those using the ADR route to dispute CIGA’s decision must pay £100, plus around £500 for an independent survey, and if they appeal it will go to the High Court.
“Not many people have hundreds of pounds to appeal, so what people are doing is just giving up. There is no recourse for people,” she said.
A survey of 250,000 properties by thermal-imaging company IRT revealed half of the homes surveyed had problems after cavity wall insulation was fitted, and it had failed to work in a quarter of cases.
Janeatte Don from Manchester was one of millions who took advantage of free cavity wall insulation, but has found herself facing countless problems after the installers went bust and the mould and damp began to surface in 2009.
She said: “My daughter and I lived like hermits, we couldn’t invite anyone into the house because it was cold.
“We had black mould on the walls, my chimney breast was destroyed – the plaster came off. It was just awful.
“I was worried about the smell, I didn’t want people coming in and judging me, it’s stayed with me – the shame of living in a place where you just don’t feel clean.”
Ms Don’s energy bills rocketed and she spent thousands renovating her home and replacing damaged units.
“We lived in absolute freezing temperatures, whatever they said it was going to do, it did the opposite,” she added.
Ms Don reached out to CIGA but said she was put off, ignored and told the issues had arisen because of poor maintenance.
When CIGA awarded Ms Don an extraction the issues did not go away, and another two extractions were carried out.
She said: “You have to use their preferred contractor and if you don’t, you’ll be told you won’t have the work done.
“You’ll never see an invoice so you’ll never know the value of what you’re getting.”
As final settlement in 2017 CIGA offered Ms Don remedial works but she said it only masked the problems which have now resurfaced again.
“I’m worn out, I just want a home I can live in,” she said.
A CIGA spokesperson said: “Cavity wall insulation is trusted by millions of people across Britain and helps to keep homes warm and utility bills down.
“CIGA provides a comprehensive end to end service and prides itself on its transparency and support to homeowners.”
Ms Don was issued a CIGA guarantee so the installer would have been approved by the product manufacturer and then by the British Board of Agrément (BBA), but critics say there has been little oversight in maintaining standards.
Damian Mercer runs Cavity Extraction, a company that extracts faulty cavity wall insulation.
He said: “I’m all in favour of reducing carbon footprints and insulating people’s houses as long as it’s done correctly and it is policed, and it has never been policed.
“We just carried out an extraction in Stockport, the vents were blocked up under the floor, the floor joists and flood boards had completely rotted.
“Sometimes we take out bricks on houses and it’s like a beanbag running out because they haven’t put glue in at all, or not enough of it. They should be working to systems but I don’t believe that has happened.”
Fitters employed by the installation companies are often paid by the job so would have had little incentive to walk away if a house wasn’t suitable, he added.
A 2019 report by Consultancy Investigation Training found 63% of 825 randomly selected public housing properties in Northern Ireland did not meet industry standards, and 36% out of 113 private homes were none compliant.
If you have suffered from faulty cavity wall insulation and need help fighting your case head to the CIVALLI website here: http://www.civalli.com/home