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her fuse box not having the required metal cover and then discovering further works had to be carried out due to outdated cabling even though the system was signed off as safe.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.”
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.”
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.