We believe all heat networks should be required to meet the standards set by Heat Trust, while statutory regulation is being developed.

Customers on heat networks that are not registered with Heat Trust are not guaranteed that their supplier will meet minimum customer service standards or allow them to use an independent redress service, like the Energy Ombudsman.

If you have recently moved in, please see our list of suggested considerations for prospective heat network customers, for some questions which you could ask your supplier to see what they do provide. These should all be set out in your customer supply agreement (terms and conditions of your heat supply, you should have received and signed this when you moved in) or customer charter (separate document listing key terms and conditions of your heat supply for if your heating bills are included in your rent).

In addition, you have some protections as a consumer from existing regulations and requirements.

 

Existing heat network regulations

All heat network suppliers have to abide by the existing regulations, which cover only metering and billing: the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014.

Key points for you as a customer to know:

If you don’t have a meter:

  • You can ask your supplier if they’ve looked into installing a meter – suppliers are required to install meters where it is cost effective and technically feasible (there is a basic test to guide this, which is currently being developed) – with a meter you get more knowledge about and therefore control over your consumption
  • If heat meters aren’t cost effective or technically feasible, then a supplier must install a heat cost allocator (HCA) and thermostatic radiator valves (TRV) (this is a small electronic device fitted to your radiator which measures the heat output from that radiator, and the TRV should allow you to control the level of heat you consume)
  • If there is renovation going on to the building this is a key opportunity to install meters/ heat cost allocators

If you do have a meter (or HCA):

  • Where there are meters/ HCAs the supplier must ensure that they are continuously operating and properly maintained
  • You should be billed at least once a year based on actual consumption (rather than estimated consumption), as long as either you or your supplier has taken a meter reading
  • The bill must show how it was calculated, including both fixed and variable charges
  • You can request to get your bills electronically if you prefer, and then bills must be provided at least quarterly
  • Your bills should include at least:
    • Current energy prices charged to you
    • Information about your consumption
    • Comparison with last year’s consumption, if available, which should be as a graph
    • Contact information for organisations who could advise on energy efficiency improvements

 

Future heat network regulations

Both UK and Scottish Governments have published proposals to regulate the heat networks market.

Please see our Resources page for more information on future regulation in both the UK and Scotland. 

 

Landlord/ tenant rights (in England and Wales)

Some of this depends on who your heat supplier is. For example there are certain requirements that apply to social landlords, and others that apply if you are a leaseholder.

Landlords of all domestic rented properties must ensure that homes are fit for human habitation, and this includes a supply of hot water, and whether the home is too hot or too cold.

The landlord (private, council or housing association) is responsible for making repairs to heating and hot water. This is required under the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985). The procedure for dealing with repairs will vary depending on the housing provider, but they should tell you how long it will take to repair, and this will vary depending on the urgency of the problem (typically 4-24 hours for an emergency, 3-4 days for an urgent issue and 7 to 10 days or longer for a routine issue). Outages to heating and hot water may not be classed as emergencies, but some may make special provision for you if you are heat dependent e.g. elderly or ill. They may require a notification in writing (either letter or email). They may have additional requirements to these (statutory requirements) placed on them by the contract you have with them (contractual requirements), such as defining timings for undertaking repairs.

If they do not respond initially, try again, both in writing and via other means e.g. telephone. If they continue to be unresponsive you could contact the Environmental Health Department at your local council for assistance, as they enforce living standards in their local area.

If you are a leaseholder:

There are certain rules over what service charges the freeholder can demand from a leaseholder, which could be for repair/maintenance of heating/ hot water, and these have to be provided up front for the next 5 years and explain what maintenance etc. the freeholder is planning to do in that time with the money.

If you have a domestic letting under a short lease (< 7 years) the landlord must keep the equipment in the house used for space heating and hot water in working order and carry out repairs (Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, Section 11). As parts of heat network equipment lies outside of individual houses (e.g. pipes and energy centre) this may not be applicable to every issue with supply.

Landlords can also only pass on reasonable costs of maintenance and improvements to tenants, if they are charging in advance (Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, Sections 18 & 19).

Under most heat network supply agreements (if they’re longer than 12 months, charge over £100/year OR require over £250 contribution for works) then the Landlord needs to undertake a statutory consultation before passing on costs of works to the tenant (Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, Section 20).  

If you live in social housing/ housing association property:

If you are a tenant and you rent your property from the council or housing association, there are housing laws (Housing Act 1985, Section 108) that limit what local authorities can charge for heating to reasonable charges based on the cost of heating to the local authority. However this doesn’t apply if the interests of the landlord belong to a co-operative housing association.

If you’re in council housing and a repair is delayed you may be eligible for compensation under the Right to Repair Scheme.

If you’re in a housing association property then the housing association must ensure that your home meets certain standards, including that it is “warm enough”.

Landlord/ tenant rights (in Scotland)

If you rent privately:

If you rent privately from a landlord, your landlord must make sure your property meets the 'repairing standard'. This comes from the the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, which covers the legal and contractual obligations of private landlords to ensure that a property meets a minimum physical standard. It includes that the installations for the supply of space heating and heating water must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order.

The property must also meet the statutory Tolerable Standard. This includes that a home may not be fit to live in/ be tolerable if:

  • it does not have enough ventilation, natural and artificial light or heating
  • it does not have an acceptable fresh water supply, or a sink with hot and cold water
  • it does not have an indoor toilet, a fixed bath or shower, and a wash basin with hot and cold water.

If you live in social housing:

If you are a Scottish secure (or short secure) tenant of a local authority or housing association then you have the right to small urgent repairs under the Right to Repair scheme. This comes from the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001. The scheme covers certain ‘qualifying’ repairs up to the value of £350, including loss or part loss of space or water heating if no alternative heating is available. You should report the need for a repair as soon as possible to your landlord, who will be able to tell you if it’s their responsibility and falls under the scheme, along with how long it will take and what will happen if it’s not covered by the scheme.

If you own your home:

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 has introduced the 'scheme of assistance' in each council area, which means you could go to your local council for assistance in maintaining or repairing your house. This assistance can be provided through advice and guidance, practical help, or through financial assistance by way of grants or loans.

 

Other consumer protections

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 protects customers against unfair contract terms and notices. The CMA says that generally, contract terms and notices are unfair if they put the customer at an unfair disadvantage. The law applies a fairness test that starts by asking whether the wording used tilts the rights and responsibilities between the customer and the trader too much in favour of the trader. For more information see: https://www.gov.uk/consumer-protection-rights.

Competition Law can also apply as heat networks can act like natural monopolies, with only one heat network operating in a given area. In such cases there might be a risk of suppliers abusing a position of market dominance. The CMA have produced a series of quick guides and films that explain the main things suppliers need to know to stay on the right side of competition law, which might help you.

Also relevant might be the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. These regulations set out what pre-contractual information must be communicated depending on where the contracts are concluded or offered, the right to cancel and cooling off periods among others.

There is also The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. These regulations prohibit misleading actions or misleading omissions and the undertaking or promoting of unfair commercial practices.

 

Tariff options

Although you usually cannot switch supplier if you’re on a heat network, you might be able to switch tariff. Ask your supplier if they offer more than one tariff.

Some suppliers might offer tariffs which might work better for you and your consumption pattern, and might work better at different times of the year.

 

Complaints

You should always make your complaint directly to your supplier first. Their contact information should be provided on your bill, or in your agreement when you first moved in.

Top tips

  • Keep a record of all contact you have regarding your complaint, including dates, and preferably who it was you were in contact with.
  • It helps to know what you would like as an outcome of your complaint e.g. a change in service, an apology, a financial compensation.

If your complaint hasn’t been resolved and you’re still not happy you could:

  • Ask if your supplier uses an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service.
  • Tenants of housing associations and local authorities can take some complaints to the Housing Ombudsman
  • Contact your residents association if you have one for your building/ area
  • See if anyone else in your building/ area is also having similar problems
  • Contact Citizens Advice, Shelter, Money Advice Trust, Step Change for advice or support (both CA and Shelter have specific websites/ advice for Scotland)
  • Contact your local councillor or MP
  • Contact the CMA if you think your supplier is not complying with competition law
  • Contact the Environmental Health Department at your local council for assistance in ensuring your landlord meets their obligations to repair/ replace your heating and/ or hot water if you rent your home