The County Durham-based housing association has seen an alarming increase in the number of homes where it has had to fix potentially dangerous electrical work, done by customers or unauthorised contractors.
Electrical Manager Mark Fort said: “Since the Covid pandemic and the cost of living crisis we are discovering more and more homes where people have tried to do their own home electrics or paid someone who has not been verified as safe, competent and registered.
“People might think they can save time and money by doing electrical work themselves or employing a cheaper tradesperson.
“In reality, this can put the lives of everyone in the home, neighbours, and anyone who works on the property in future at risk. And it can end up costing more to make the work safe than it would have to do it right first time.”
In one case, a Neighbourhood Officer called at a house in Seaham, after noticing demolition waste on the driveway and discovered that the customer had knocked out a wall, without permission.
Work was stopped immediately, and an inspection revealed that the smoke detector had been removed and electrical cables left hanging dangerously exposed.
The customer was subsequently charged for the cost of fixing the unauthorised work.
Mark said: “This case posed a risk of injury to anyone using the installation. If we hadn’t discovered it, something serious could have happened.
“Fortunately, we were able to act straight away to stop the immediate risk and carried out further remedial work to make the home safe again within three days.
“It is imperative that any customer who wants to improve or alter the electrics in their home, or who has already done so themselves without the proper checks by us, gets in touch so we can keep their home and loved ones safe.”
During believe housing’s second Electrical Safety Week, from November 13 to 17, it is reminding people to consult its Customer Home Improvements policy before carrying out any work in their home.
Michael Oliver, Project Support Team Leader for believe housing’s Customer Home Improvement Team, said: “It is important to us that customers feel at home in their property and take pride in their home and neighbourhood.
“If a customer wants to make a home improvement, they should check our policy first to see what they need to consider and whether approval is required.
“We consider all home improvement requests in line with the tenancy agreement, relevant legal and regulatory requirements, best practice, and the values and aims of believe housing.
“We will not unreasonably withhold permission for home improvements, but work may be refused for safety, energy efficiency and cost reasons.”
Unsafe home electrics can cause electrical injury and increase the risk of fire in a property.
From 2022 to 2023, there were 10 electrical-related fires at believe housing homes costing the organisation £259,328. A further two electrical-related fires this year have cost £13,500.
One of the biggest concerns right now is the rise in popularity of electric bikes and scooters with lithium-ion batteries, which were involved in two of those fires.
Anyone who owns or wants to buy an e-bike or e-scooter should consider key safety advice, including how to safely store and charge them.
Visit the believe housing website for more on safety in your home.