Ramsgate council tenant urges others to check fuse boxes over fears of fire risk despite ‘safety sign off’

The tenant is worried that their fuse box and cabling is a fire risk that isn't being dealt with

A Ramsgate council home tenant is urging others to check the safety of their fuse boxes, saying an error in signing off their board left them at risk of a fire in their home.

The tenant, who has asked not to be named, says she is concerned that an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) was signed off and issued for her home despite her fuse box not having the required metal cover and then discovering further works had to be carried out due to outdated cabling even though the system was signed off as safe.

The EICR is carried out by Mears on behalf of Thanet council. An EICR is when  electrical installations are tested by a skilled person to ensure they are safe and they will not cause any fire risks or electric shocks.

This will cover the fuse box or distribution board; cabling including those hidden in the walls and ceilings and accessories (such as sockets, switches and light fittings).

EICR inspections are required by law for rental properties and HMOs and must be renewed every five years.


Regulations changed in 2016, and now state all domestic consumer units must be either enclosed in a non-combustible material or housed in a cabinet made from a non-combustible material. These rules were put in place to contain any fires that broke out in the consumer unit within their casing to stop the spread of flames. It came on the heels of statistics from London Fire Brigade which recorded an increase in home fires between 2011 and 2014, attributed to poor wiring practices that led to overheating of plastic fuse boxes.

The tenant and their partner say they were so worried about the fire risk that they asked electrician Suzanne Brimm to advocate on their behalf to find out whether their home was at risk.

She says the work that needs doing involves the installation of a sub main and a new cover on the consumer unit.

They added: “The board should not have been signed off in its current state, and does not meet BS7671 regulations and is not Part P compliant, which invalidates the tenant’s insurance. The tenants have been left at risk of fire for three months, the EICR is a legal document and should not have been issued with works outstanding.”

‘Fire risk’

The tenant said: “We are concerned that our consumer unit was left without a cover, which is a fire risk, and when asked for a copy of the paperwork, the engineer he said there was no copy for us because it was a legal document that belonged to Thanet council.

“We requested a copy of this from the council but got no response so our advocate requested it on our behalf and TDC turned the request into a Freedom of Information request.  We have no idea why it should be turned into an FOI.  Right at the end of the timescale for response, they send the EICR certificate – all signed off.

“However, we were then contacted by Mears to say there was work that needed ‘finalising’.  How can there be work still outstanding on a certificate that is signed off?

“In between this, the electricians came back and issued an Electrical Safety Warning Certificate which stated that our property was at risk of fire because of VIR (vulcanised Indian rubber) cables that were old and needed replacing.  It became apparent that there is disagreement between the electricians and UK Power Networks as to who is responsible for doing this work.

“We find this really worrying because none of this work has been completed yet the FOI returned a signed off certificate which is clearly not worth the paper it is written on.  We still have no cover on our Consumer Unit and no work has been carried out on the VIR cables for which the Fire Risk Certificate was issued.

“We are very concerned that like us, other tenants are at risk of their home insurance being invalidated because their EICR certificate is incorrect.  We have been left for quarter of a year with outstanding work that should not have been signed of as completed – it is clearly not completed and that this has left us at risk.

“When is the council going to sort this out and we wonder how many other properties like ours have been signed off incorrectly and are therefore ‘at risk’ leaving tenants with invalid home insurance policies.”

‘Required level’

A Thanet council spokesperson said: ““We commission Mears, via their subcontractor, Elec-Sec, to carry out Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICR) for all council-owned accommodation. This ensures that all properties owned by the council meet the required level of electrical safety. Mears inspects ten percent of all works carried out by their subcontractors.

“All certificates are uploaded to our compliance database, to confirm that they are completed accurately.

“Residents can ask for their own certificate. We would not usually provide a certificate to someone that does not live at the property.”

Thanet council says an electrical inspection may indicate that further works are required to ensure the electrical compliance.

These are ranked as: 

  • Category 1 works are addressed immediately
  • Category 2 works will be completed within one month of identification
  • Category 3 covers recommendations which can be carried out as part of a planned programme of work.

East Kent Housing

In 2020 Thanet council took its housing stock back under authority control after the four East Kent councils’ decision to close down management organisation East Kent Housing.

This followed revelations in 2019 that hundreds of council property tenants across east Kent had been awaiting gas safety certificates due to overdue Landlord Gas Safety Register assessments.

It then emerged that there were also grave concerns over potential further issues with electrical certification, lifts, fire safety and legionella testing.

Former Thanet councillor Suzanne Brimm had  first raised electrical safety issues at council-owned homes back in 2017.

The health and safety failures resulted in the four councils – Thanet, Dover, Folkestone and Canterbury – being issued with a Regulatory Notice by the Regulator of Social Housing in September 2019.

Since housing came back under authority control TDC said work had been undertaken to deal with the legacy issues of East Kent Housing and bring in a number of improvements.

Work was undertaken to transfer all records relating to health & safety, such as gas and electrical certification, to a new software system which automatically reads and record certificates, identifies jobs, schedules renewal dates and produces performance information.


  1. The property in question was one of the first Council Houses built in Newington back in 1948, and it is considered highly likely that tenants in up to 130 properties of the same type have the same kind of exposed VIR cable going from ground floor flats into a steel pipe to an upstairs flat and into a second fuse box there. Over time, VIR cable is subject to decomposition and fraying, causing a very high risk of fire or electrocution. This wiring is exposed within kitchen cupboards that in small flats are likely to be crammed full of metal objects, fabrics and even sharp objects. The fact that the space is so constrained is what led the electrician who installed this tenant’s new consumer unit (fuse box) to simply take off the metal lid that covers the circuit breakers in the consumer unit. That is an automatic “fail” in terms of current electrical safety certification. This is surely a matter for these residents’ local district councillors, one of whom just happens to be the Leader of Thanet District Councillor. Will he bother? What do you think? Lest it be thought that the problem only resulted from the change in this particular tenant’s consumer unit, that’s not the case. Yes, the consumer unit lid can’t operate correctly because of insufficient clearance between the consumer unit and the steel tube to the upstairs flat, and that IS a fail in safety terms, but the VIR cabling ought to have been replaced decades ago. This cabling doesn’t just carry a bit of juice that runs to an electrical socket or two. It carries ALL of the current flowing from the downstairs tenant’s submain in a crowded cupboard to the upstairs tenant’s cupboard and consumer unit, thus wiring that will cope with a shower heater, electric cooker, all ring main and radial sockets, electrical switches, and wiring in the upstairs flat, probably with a sixty, eighty or hundred amp main fuse. That is a lot of juice!

  2. Thanet District Council, like East Kent Housing, does not automatically issue copies of electricity or gas safety certificates to tenants of their properties. Other social landlords do. The Leader of Thanet District Council and his relevant Cabinet Member should insist that the Senior Management Team must issue a copy of such certification to all tenants. Failure to do so could and probably would invalidate any insurance claim made by a tenant to their home insurers in case of fire or electric shock. This is important not only in these particular 130 properties built in 1948-49 but in every other TDC-owned Council House in Thanet. It may be that some of those 130 maisonettes are now privately owned or have been sold to housing associations, but the rebuttable presumption must be that all 130 of these properties will remain at very considerable and increasing risk of fire or electric shock unless their deficiencies have been put right.

  3. It’s a fairly common practice within TDC to ignore/sideline requests for information from a department, ( a comon excuse is that department A doesn’t hold the information and there’s a delay from department B, and they then hope that the matter gets forgotten)so the easiest way is to submit an FOI request, which will usually result in the original request suddenly being fullfilled by the appropriate apartment. This is because FOI requests are published on line for anyone to see and as such better if the information is provided by another route. All a daft game.

  4. Surely this can’t be the same Thanet Council as the one which sacked off its housing provider some years back and took the service back in house with promises that they would do better (even though it was pretty evident that their “client officers” were completely asleep at the wheel)

    Sounds like someone else should be getting sacked off right about now.

    • Seeing as TDC were 25% owbers of East Kent Housing its no excuse for any failings and the staff there must have been beyond reproach as they took up jobs in the housing departments the councils created ( just as the councils transferred staff to EKH when it was formed). One of the reasons the existing staff were given jobs in the new council departments was to dissuade any whistle blowing, over procurement pressures from the councils and local monitoring and signing off of works done. Anyone remember the 1 million disputed overpayments to the plumbing contractor?

  5. Some residents of Arlington House in recent years complained to TDC that fire safety works/ improvements to the building, including fire stopping and retrofitting fire safety improvements to the electrical cupboards outside of their flats in the corridors was substandard in many cases.
    I believe Kent Fire and Rescue Service ( KFRS ) signed off the works after having inspected a a small sample number of the 142 electrical cupboards in the building.

    However it was clear to any reasonable person that there were breaches to compartmentation and fire safety was potentially compromised in some of the cupboards , but TDC having inspected, again only a small sample stated that they were happy that the risks posed weren’t sufficient to warrant further works to be required.

    To this day in addition to the current fire safety breaches to fire safety at Ah including non complaint flat entrance doors many electrical cupboards and riser cupboards in communal areas are still non compliant. This despite KFRS’S and TDC’S continued involvement.
    Isn’t it about time the members took their responsibilities seriously and made sure these works are undertaken.

  6. Cllr Helen Whitehead is the TDC cabinet member for Housing. Given the details in the article TDC “commission Mears, via their subcontractor, Elec-Sec, to carry out Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICR) ensuring that all properties owned by the council meet the required level of electrical safety. Mears inspects ten percent of all works carried out by their subcontractors”
    Even if this is all true the article is evendence that the 10% inspection regime is not fit for purpose.
    Cll Whitehead needs to get onto the contract compliance officer at TDC so they can inspect this property themselves, take the results back to Mears and get Mears to reveiw a 10% selection of all the work done by their sub-contrator, selected by the contract complaince officer and Cllr. None of this should be at TDC’s expense.

  7. Dear Mr Carmichael,

    As you know I raised concerns to Mr Bob Porter (Head of Housing) at Thanet District Council in 2017 regarding 70 percent of our local authority homes not having Electrical Installation Condition Reports. For two years Mr Porter ignored my concerns which were emailed to him several times (in the public interest) until Pennington Choices investigated East Kent Housing and confirmed the issues I had been raising. I am an electrician by trade of 20 years mainly working for British Gas and am qualified to test and inspect electrical installations.

    I have once again raised concerns to Mr Porter regarding a local authority home which I believe to be at risk, and ONCE AGAIN Mr Porter is NOT listening. In fact what he has done is quote the wiring regulations to me and told me there is nothing to worry about, what qualifies Mr Porter to run the Housing department and ignore such obvious electrical health, safety and fire risks regarding tenants in social housing.

    Personally I would not trust Mr Porter to run a bath, let alone the housing department.

    Please check his condescending response to my email raising concerns to XXXX Avenue in Ramsgate.

    Have no lessons been learnt since the local authority took back control of its Housing stock? Mr Porter seems to ignore all health and safety issues I have previously raised with him in my capacity as an electrical engineer and as a Councillor. The only way for me to get him to listen is to use our local press, who I have also copied into this email. Mr Porters behaviour when I raise valid electrical and fire concerns is frankly unacceptable and worrying.

    As you can see I have copied into this email the NICEIC which Mr Porter advised me to complain to, also the technical engineer, Mr Spencer Brothwood from Hager who has confirmed that this consumer unit should be given a Code 1. Mr Porter has stated that it is a Code 3 which is a recommendation, Mr Porter does not seem to know the difference between recommendations and the Regulations and has given me advice that contravenes these, once again what qualifies Mr Porter to do this? I find his actions (or lack of) concerning, hence this is a formal complaint.

  8. Mr Porter may find a permanent change of scenery beneficial. One hopes Cllr Everett and Moore will hold him to account, but I won’t hold my breath. Carmichael, however, should have all the information he needs to sort this out without straight away, now!

Comments are closed.