Thousands of students will be returning to rented accommodation after the Christmas break – but do they know their safety might be at risk?
Electricity fraud on the rise
With electricity fraud becoming a rising problem in recent years, which we see most often in the winter months, it’s more important than ever that people know how to spot the signs.
A survey found that around 67% of 18-24 year olds wouldn’t be sure of how to identify the signs of electricity fraud. This leaves them vulnerable to being taken advantage of by rogue landlords.
Does your rent include bills?
For example, did you know that a tenant is more likely to be at risk if their rent includes bills? Whether they’re a student or not, it’s a common problem in the private rental market.
Landlords can try and swindle a few extra quid out of their tenants by fixing the meters so that they show a lower reading than was actually used. But the trick is, they’ll still charge their tenants a fixed, more expensive rate every month.
There’s a quick turnover in student accommodation as students often only stay for one year before moving on to a new property. That means that the signs of fraud can easily be overlooked – but students could still be in danger.
Concerned that you or someone you know might be at risk? Check out our article here to help you find out how to spot the signs of electricity fraud and what to do if you see it.
Putting lives at risk
Electricity fraud is a dangerous crime, and it’s growing – we’re receiving hundreds of reports every month. People who try to tamper with their meters just to save money risk being caught by energy companies and forced to pay back the stolen amount, or in some cases even face serious fines and a jail sentence.
A lot of people also overlook the safety risks with this crime. While it can be tempting to try so-called “meter hacks”, the fact is that there is no safe way to tamper with your meter. From electrical shocks to sparks and even fires, the consequences can be deadly. It’s a landlord’s responsibility to make sure their tenants have a safe place to live.
Lloyd Birkhead, managing director of the specialists who commissioned the study, said:
“These figures make for uncomfortable reading. The prospect of moving into your first home with friends is exciting – but many students do so unaware of this potential danger.
“Within the student rental sector, there are countless ways energy theft can occur – from previous tenants cheating their energy supply to dishonest landlords interfering with the meter.
“Sadly though, innocent individuals are often most at risk – perhaps those that inherit a tampered meter or neighbouring residents. This is a particular concern for those in high-rise tower blocks, where many more lives could be at risk due to issues in just one flat.
“Ultimately, students need to be equipped with knowledge and understanding, to help them eradicate the danger that could be lurking in their meter cupboard. We advise looking for evidence at the same time that the property inventory is taken.”
5 signs of electricity fraud
There are lots of tell-tale signs of electricity fraud.
- Does your rent include bills? – Check out our article to see if you recognise any of these key signs of fraud
- Is the meter casing damaged, melted or burnt? – If you see or smell smoke, you must call the emergency services immediately as there could be danger
- A back to front meter, or no visible dial at all
- Extra wires attached to the meter
- Electricity supply still working even with no credit available
What to do if you’re concerned
If you have any concerns at all, it’s important that you report them straight away. You can report to stayenergysafe completely anonymously, by phone or online, 24/7. Don’t let yourself or your loved ones get caught out.