The Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact across the country.

The UK Government and devolved administrations have announced a series of measures to minimise the spread of the virus, including asking people to work from home if possible, and avoid any unnecessary social contact and travel.

These measures mean that people are spending more time at home, which in turn could lead to higher energy consumption patterns and increased reliance on their heating and hot water supply.

Supporting customers during this time

Energy is an essential service and during this time it’s important that customers are supported and have access to reliable heating and hot water. Registered Participants of Heat Trust are required to have in place contingency plans to ensure continuity of supply and to mobilise plans to support customers.

If you are concerned about your supply of heating or hot water

If you have any concerns about your supply of heating or hot water, particularly your ability to pay for these services, then you should contact your supplier in the first instance. Contact details should be on your bill or annual account statement, or on the heat supply agreement you signed when you first moved in. If you’re a tenant and are unsure who your heat supplier is then contact your landlord.

Energy suppliers’ call centres are likely to be busier at the moment, so please check your supplier’s website first if you can, to see if there is any information that may help answer your query.

Check how you pay your heat bills

Do you normally have to leave your home to pay for your energy bill? Do you think you might have problems paying your bill due to Coronavirus? Contact your supplier first, who will be able to discuss the way you pay your bills, or may be able to agree a payment plan.

Your supplier should already have additional support available for those on low income or severe financial insecurity. It is advisable to inform your supplier of any potential payment issue as soon as possible, so you can discuss the best course of action.

Are you in a vulnerable situation that requires extra support?

All heat suppliers registered with Heat Trust are required to hold a register of customers in vulnerable situations that require additional support. This is commonly called a priority services register, or vulnerability register.

If you have a particular reliance on your heating or hot water that your supplier is unaware of, it is important to notify your supplier as soon as possible. This may be due to your age or health condition, or that of a member of your household. Your supplier may be able to provide additional support for you, for example if there should be an outage.

What to do if you have a complaint?

You should still raise any issues you have directly with your supplier. If you are on a site regsitered with Heat Trust and cannot resolve the issue with your supplier and it has been over eight weeks, then you can take your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman. See our complaints page for more information. Please note that customer service departments are likely to be busier than usual at this time, so try to be patient and it might be helpful to keep a record of when you tried to make contact.

Are you renting your home?

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published relevant guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities in the private and social rented sectors in England in the context of Coronavirus; this is available here. This guidance states that landlords’ repair obligations have not changed. Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live – and it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards.  

Other support and information

Most charities and helplines are still operating a remote service via telephone helplines or their websites. An update on their services as well as advice and guidance in relation to the current Coronavirus situation can be found via the following links:

UK Government Information and guidance on Coronavirus and the support government is providing can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Citizens Advice has updated their website to provide information on Coronavirus here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/

Citizens Advice Scotland also have a page on Coronavirus more tailored to the situation in Scotland: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/

The UK Government has announced a package of measures to support people facing difficulties as a result of Coronavirus. A summary of the support available can be found on the Citizen’s Advice webpage here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/if-you-cant-pay-your-bills-because-of-coronavirus/

Age UK is a dedicated charity helping older people. They have advice on Coronavirus here: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/coronavirus/coronavirus/

Mind. This is a very unnerving time for everyone. Mind is a mental health and wellbeing charity that can provide support if you are feeling anxious or worried. More information can be found here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/

National Energy Action (NEA) – national charity on fuel poverty that delivers direct support to customers. While face-to-face support is currently suspended to reduce transmission of the virus, they are still operating telephone support. https://www.nea.org.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-update-on-delivery-and-operations/

Scope is a disability equality charity in England and Wales. They have prepared advice on Coronavirus here: https://www.scope.org.uk/coronavirus-information/

National debtline: if you would like to speak to an independent organisation regarding debt advice, you may wish to contact National debtline – who can provide dedicated advice on debt: https://www.nationaldebtline.org/EW/factsheets/Pages/coronavirus-advice-and-support/help-and-advice.aspx