Home Insulation

Reporter: Paul Makin

This is a story of huge taxpayer's dollars being snatched under false pretences -- with rules being broken -- big time - and innocent homeowners unwittingly defrauding the Federal Government of possibly millions -- through the home insulation rebate program.

The ones making the big bucks are the fly-by-nighters, travelling the length and breadth of Australia, door knocking and offering to install or replace insulation free of charge. Companies like Zenith out of Melbourne, whose head office is a block of units in Oakleigh. They are now they on the road and coming to a neighbourhood near you.

Zenith, like some others pulling a rort, are registered and recommended providers under the Federal Government Scheme which has stringent rules -- but we've found out the rule book has been thrown away. "We are giving free to the customer because it's a rebate up to $1,200. (so you get $1200 off the Federal Government?) Yes", Zenith's Preet said.

But the rule is homeowners need two quotes and that was certainly not the case at Arthur Mallison's place when they went a-knocking. "She said the Government is paying $1200 -- you know it doesn't cost you a cent", Arthur said.

So law abiding Arthur now finds himself in the middle of a tax payer rip-off "I only found out today through a mate of mine, who got onto the internet, that we had to have two quotes -- I didn't know anything about that", Arthur said.

And he's not alone -- the burbs are now providing a huge income stream for companies taking the shady short cut. At the end of the working day, they simply grab their Government money online. "Basically you just put your number in ..... the amount that you used .... they don't ask you any other questions" said Silvano Christian.

Silvano has been in the insulation game for over forty years and reckons the scammers are making a fortune. "They should really be stopped", Silvano said.Silvano says some scammers even give two or three quotes under different companies, so the home owner is covered - but it is the same person.Robin champion is the concerned citizen who brought this latest rort to our attention and the proof isn't hard to find -- despite Zenith boss Preet claiming otherwise. He didn't and couldn't provide us with any quotes -- and besides, that's the homeowner's responsibility under this scheme, not his.

The Zenith installer at Arthur's place signed the Government declaration that he'd completed the work in accordance with the requirements of the insulation program -- despite the warning that providing misleading information is a serious offence under the Criminal Code Act.

And when we went to the so-called Adelaide office of Zenith, at a seedy block of units in beachside Glenelg, to talk to Preet about this matter, we were told to go away. "There's no one here, so you can't come in", we were told. They did confirm however, it was the Zenith office in Adelaide.

Arthur says, "How do you know this has been installed correctly -- I don't" And that's the other thing. The workmanship in Arthur's case is not only disgraceful, it is downright dangerous. "I would describe that as one, probably one of the worst jobs I've seen", Silvano said. "For insulation to be properly installed, it's got to be between the timbers and snug in between the timbers because that's for fires. If it's just left loose, fire comes up and it will just go straight through", Silvano added. The material can start to burn without the house owners even knowing -- and that's a real possibility at Arthur's house.

So what is going to happen to these rip off merchants? Already sixteen companies have been de-registered for failing to comply with regulations. But what about this latest crop, after all, this rebate program involves almost t$2.5 billion and runs till 2011. "Probably the Minister doesn't even know at the moment what's happening out there", Silvano said. He does now. We told the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garret and his response is: "Every installer is on notice -- break the rules and we will take action". In this case his Department says it won't not pay the claims until they have been investigated and any breach will lead to deregistration and possible legal action.

If you've had a problem with your insulation, you can email us tt@7perth.com.au or give us a call on 9344 0777.