The rental market is being warned of the dangers from unsafe gas and electricity supplies caused by meter-tampering.
Research undertaken by the Grosvenor Services Group and Echo Managed Services suggests that 14 per cent of people have encountered the signs of a tampered energy meter in person; the firms claim meter cheating causes at least one injury or death every 10 days in the UK.
The practice occurs when somebody illegally tampers with - or completely bypasses - their electricity or gas meter so it doesn’t properly record usage, meaning they can avoid paying for some or all of their supply.
This leaves consumers with unsafe gas and electrical supplies, which in turn can put them at risk of a range of potentially fatal hazards.
Examples of tampering include a back-to-front meter, a rubber tube where the meter should be or a ‘bridged supply’ – where a wire is used to bypass information going into the meter.
Of those who have encountered an instance of meter cheating, almost three-quarters said they noticed it when moving to a new property.
Almost two in five said they had spotted a sign when they bought a home, with a further 34 per cent witnessing it when they moved into a rental property.
The two brands say that with the private rental market continuing to see huge growth – set to increase in the coming years - this is likely to become an even bigger problem in future.
It is estimated that around £400m in electricity and gas is stolen every year through meter tampering and statistics show 150,000 cases are investigated each year, although with only around 1,500 people charged.
“These figures make for uncomfortable reading. Despite more than seven million UK adults saying that they have spotted the signs of a - potentially fatal - energy meter tamper, in reality the volume of actual reported incidents is far below this level. A significant amount of ‘spotted’ instances may therefore be going unreported, causing a huge threat to households across the country” says Lloyd Birkhead, managing director of Grosvenor Services Group.
Roger Critchell, director of operations at Crimestoppers UK - which endorsed the research exercise - says: “Given that it is under-reported, it’s understandable that the dangers of this crime are not fully understood by members of the public in the UK.”