The Carbon Saving Community Obligation Mythical Beast

David Lawrenson of remains unimpressed by the reality of the Green Deal

Any decent private landlord is like anyone else, we like free stuff.

We like it a lot.

Not the kind of “free stuff” advertised by the likes of the Telecom and Pay to Watch TV firms. Example: “Get this great Sky TV Package free for 6 months”……. whilst in the small print it says that you have to sign a 36 month contract worth £100 per month to get the free 6 months thing.

Not, that’s not free, that’s just sly marketing. And the type of marketing that I have always thought should be made illegal.

No, what we all like is really free stuff. Genuine free stuff where someone else pays! I could earn millions as a consultant but I will still always like free stuff.

So, over the course of the last three weeks I have been looking into what might be genuinely free (not “Sky free”!) within the Green Deal.

Green Deal

Yes, the Green Deal is, of course, much trumpeted by the government – and we all have to do our bit to save the planet disappearing under ice melt water and getting fried by rising temperatures (whilst meanwhile confusingly continuing to endure a succession of cool wet UK summers and freezing winters.)

So, what do I think of the Green Deal?

Well, I have to say, I’m not that impressed, so far. Mainly the problems for me start and end with the high interest rates tagged onto the improvements. Yes, I know, it is supposed to meet the “Golden Rule” but it still doesn’t sound such a great deal.

This being the government, of course – and never being ones to make anything simple – there are naturally a myriad of providers, many pots of funding and different funding bodies, none of whom seem to talk to each other.

But one special little fund rather caught my eye.


I had read about it in the National Landlords Association (NLA) magazine. It is the Carbon Saving Community Obligation or CSCO. I like it because it does not require my tenants to be on a low income (most of mine aren’t) and it does not require a high interest loan to be attached leechlike to the electricity bill.

Instead, it simply appears to be a pot of money made available by government to reduce carbon footprint on my houses and it comes without any strings (and without me having to spend any of my own money).

The CSCO is only available to be applied to houses that are in relatively low income areas – areas meeting some “index of deprivation”.

Postcode Look Up

But is it possible to easily find out exactly which areas?

Is there a simple look up postcode table I could use – one where I simply enter in the postcode and it says, “Yes, this area qualifies” or “No, it does not.” *

Well, that would be too easy. After spending two days looking for one, I needed help.

Did the NLA’s own Green Deal people know if my places were in areas that qualified?

“No – you could ask your local authority or energy provider” they said.

Did the Energy Savings Trust (EST) know?

“Er no. Um, we are not sure it is running. Oh, it is, is it? Ah well, ask your council or your energy company. Oh, you already have and got nowhere? Er, then your council will come knocking on your door and you will have to just wait for that to happen. No, Sir, you cannot find out which areas and if your places qualify proactively in advance. Wait for the man from the council to knock your tenants’ door. That’s how it works, Sir.”

Did Scottish Electric know?

“No, we don’t get involved in that. Ask the EST or your council”

And what of the councils in the areas where I have let properties?

Bexley Council?

“We don’t know. Will get back to you in 5 days” (That was 15 days ago)

Dover Council?

“We don’t know. Will get back to you in 5 days” (That was 12 days ago)

I think you can see where this is going – round in circles.

Lewisham Council and Southwark Councils?

Preferring to not get too dizzy, I have to admit I pulled some strings at Southwark, and to a lesser extent at Lewisham. (LettingFocus as worked with both local authorities, so we have some connections higher up. Sometimes it pays to be a consultant in the private rented sector, having a well read blog here and in publications online and just being an ongoing pain to get what you want).

And anyway, I was getting fed up by now.

So what finally happened was that a nice civil servant at Lewisham and another nice one fron Southwark spent a long time digging around and were able to tell me that one of my places in Lewisham qualifies but neither of my two in Southwark did.

So, there we are. I now know that one of my places in Lewisham qualifies, though I still am unsure about how to get the thing implemented.

And I am still waiting to hear from Bexley and Dover councils who clearly fail miserably on their own response time promises.

Previous Experience in East Kent

But what a duff experience, which very much chimes with the last experience I had of getting energy improvements some three years ago in which me and one of my tenants had our time comprehensively wasted by an utterly stupid fund delivered by some quasi-local-government chaps calling themselves the East Kent Housing Project. I won’t bore you with the details but “the sell” was I could have a free brand new condensing boiler as long as my tenant was on a low income.

Only at the last minute and after endless meetings with my tenant and much form filling did they tell me we did not qualify because the tenant did not have a “repairing obligation for the boiler.” (As any landlord knows no tenant has such an obligation apart from in a few tied cottages. Doh!).

Carbon Reduction. Much Hot Air!

So, it seems to me that the whole carbon saving idea is full of much pomp and big words but in reality the delivery is poor, confusing and to find out if you qualify for stuff or get a sensible answer is nigh on impossible unless you can pull strings like I did.

The CSCO itself could still be a mythical beast – as rare as a non-public school educated Minister in the Conservative party.

I won’t be wasting my time again, but I will be sending this blog post to the Energy Minister, no doubt to get the usual vague response that dodges my questions and which is emailed over by a bored junior civil servant 4 weeks later.

And I will be feeding back my thoughts to the National Landlords Assocn. too.

* Note: Before any smart folk some back to me with a link showing a complex way of doing it, sorry, but unless you are an IT expert in interrogating datasets, sorry it just does not wash!

**One of the senior execs at the NLA has now responded and he very much shares my frustrations with how the schemes operate.


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