More homeowners are installing spray foam insulation to keep bills down as the price of energy soars but many could end up with unmortgageable properties, experts warn.
Trading Standards Scotland and banks report a sharp increase in the number of people having spray foam installed in a bid to ease the cost of living.
However, they caution that cold-calling companies are exploiting homeowners and inputting spray foam in ways that don’t comply with manufacturer recommendations. These borrowers are then at risk of being turned down for a mortgage or equity release.
Rob Stevens, director of property risk at Nationwide Building Society, said: “Spray foam insulation can be a good way to improve the energy efficiency of a home.
“However, if it isn’t installed in line with manufacturer recommendations, there is an inherent risk of causing damage to the roof structure, which can lead to costly repair bills and the need for the spray foam to be removed.
“Consequently, where a valuer sees evidence of spray foam we will require documentary evidence that it has been installed correctly before we will lend.”
Trading Standards has received an increasing number of reports of people being targeted by cold-callers offering a free survey of their loft.
The agency said: “Once they have been in the loft, the salesperson engages in aggressive practices, saying the loft is damp and shows signs of black mould which is highly toxic.
“We have had reports where photographs are shown on the salesperson’s phone to depict the mould but these are not from the consumer’s home, and finally to ensure agreement for the installation of the product, tape reading ‘danger’ is put up to prevent access to the loft.
“These tactics put consumers in a state of fear, so much so that they agree to the work which can often be extremely costly and cause rot in the roof.”
Jennifer, a retired teacher from Stirling, contacted Trading Standards after being cold-called by representatives of a company who said they were carrying out free surveys of roof insulation. They claimed to be working alongside Home Energy Scotland and said an inspection would be required to ensure her eligibility for government grants.
A few days later, a man claiming to represent Home Energy Scotland arrived to inspect the insulation. He told Jennifer that he had found white mould in a corner of the loft which, if left untreated, could turn to black mould and be hazardous to her health.
He advised that the best solution was spray foam insulation and quoted a price of almost £5,000. Suspicious, she contacted Home Energy Scotland who did not find any evidence of mould and confirmed that the original inspector was not registered.
In another case, a couple in the west of Scotland contacted Trading Standards after agreeing to have spray foam insulation installed in their loft following a cold-call. However, they later discovered the new insulation was unsuitable for a timber-built house and had to pay a lot of money to have it removed before it rotted the timbers.
The agency said it would pursue businesses that continued to dupe consumers into making costly improvements they didn’t need.
Fiona Richardson, chief officer of Trading Standards Scotland, said: “We strongly advise homeowners to consult with a mortgage adviser who is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority before having spray foam insulation installed.
“Don’t engage with cold-callers offering ‘free’ loft or roof surveys and never accept information offered from these sources without doing independent research.
“We would also ask people to look out for family members, friends and neighbours who may be vulnerable and to report any suspicious behaviour to Police Scotland.”
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