Homeowners forced to fork out thousands as insulation scam cases rise

Scots are being misled into buying costly loft insulation by rogue traders claiming it will help cut energy costs.

Home insulation scams are on the rise as rogue traders exploit homeowners trying to cut their energy costs.

Trading Standards Scotland warn there has been an increase in reports of online adverts, cold callers and rogue traders offering misleading information about the availability of grants and funding for energy efficiency incentives.

Several complaints have been received from people who were cold called and offered a ‘free’ loft survey.

Dishonest companies, who often claim to work with local councils or Home Energy Scotland, the Scottish Government’s impartial energy advice service, tell consumers that they are eligible to receive government or council funding for products such as insulation, boilers and heating systems, but ask them to pay for the products up front or take out a loan.

Those who agreed subsequently discovered that the ‘surveyors’ were in fact salespeople who tried to pressure them into buying spray foam insulation.

There have been several reports of homeowners having difficulty trying to sell a property, take out a mortgage or release equity from a property with foam insulation.

Fiona Barton and her husband André, both 60, were initially told they would not be able to sell their property near Newtongrange in Midlothian after paying a company just under £5,000 to install spray foam insulation in their loft in December 2022.

They had to pay another specialist firm to remove the foam so they could move house, with their eventual bill coming to almost £11,000.

Fiona said: “We’ve been cold called in the past, with people phoning us to say the government can give you a free survey of your loft. So when they said ‘we can check your loft out’ I assumed it was a similar sort of scenario.

“They came and said our loft was very, very damp and that they had ways and means of improving it. They sounded very professional and believable, otherwise we wouldn’t have gone ahead with it.

“They also arrived at just the right time, it was -5C outside, it was Christmas time, it was dark and miserable, and they spun the story of our loft not being adequate.

“Spray foam insulation was something I’d never heard of before. They trapped us by our non-knowledge of the product.

“I did a quick search for the company’s website and of course the reviews were all five stars. But what I didn’t do a search on was spray foam insulation, because then I would’ve realised this wasn’t a great thing at all.

Work to remove the foam insulation has cost the couple nearly £11,000

“When we came to sell the house, we had the surveyor come for the Home Report. He said: ‘Can I have a look in your loft?’, took one look and said ‘Oh, there’s a problem here’.

“He said that having spray foam insulation meant that anyone trying to buy the house wouldn’t be able to get a mortgage. That was when my world fell apart, because we’d already bought our next house and we had to sell in order to move.”

The couple found another company to remove the foam and were fortunately able to sell the property and move house as they had originally planned.

They are hopeful that they will eventually be able to recover the cost of both the original foam installation and its removal, but a year later their claim is still ongoing.

Fiona said: “[The surveyors] were very beguiling and trustworthy.

“I thought ‘oh my goodness what have we done?’ We really thought we had done the right thing.

“It cost more to remove than it did to install.

“We were feeling so foolish that we had been conned and allowed these people to come into our homes and to calmly and plausibly take our money.”

Trading Standards Scotland chief Fiona Richardson said: “We’re seeing older people specifically being targeted.

“They are being phoned and asked if there is anybody in the house over 70 or 80, and if there is that they are eligible for a free survey.

“It’s very upsetting. Feeling scammed it can affect your confidence.

“People are being told they have mould which is dangerous to their health, making them frightened and pressuring them into making decisions to take insulation forward.

“Often once they’ve had it put in, they realise they might have problems selling their homes.

“We’d always tell people to be very wary of cold calls.

“If you’re not actively thinking about getting insulation and someone phones you up out of the blue, think carefully about that and take advice from the Home Energy Scotland website.

“If you’ve been mis-sold, please contact Advice Direct Scotland for further advice and contact the bank to see if you can do anything about payments.

“Watch out for older relatives and make sure they aren’t being contacted in this way. If they do, consider getting cold call-blocking devices to make sure they’re only getting calls from people they know.”

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