Coroners' report calls for best practice on energy meters

A prevention of future deaths report criticising the location of a prepayment electricity meter has been issued following the death of an elderly woman in her council flat. Property agents do not have any formal responsibility regarding the location of energy meters, however it is sensible to know where to signpost tenants who need support, information or resources.

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After trying to add credit to a prepayment meter, Bernadette Faulkner, 80 used a stepladder to access it, fell and tragically later died from her injuries.

There are no industry standards requiring electricity meters to be easily accessible by customers, except perhaps those in newly built properties, and in this case the meter was eight feet off the ground.

The report has been shared with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Building Safety and Energy UK, who have both said they will work with the industry to help prevent a repeat, and careful consideration of the findings will be undertaken.

Property agents need to be aware

If a meter cannot be easily accessed then customers should contact their supplier as soon as possible to get the support needed to make changes and/or discuss alternative options, which could include their meter being replaced or relocated.

The supplier is responsible for assessing the situation and deciding on appropriate action. It is illegal for people to move a meter tremselves. 

Property agents can help by understanding how they can advise tenants and landlords.

Guidance from the energy regulator

Under a new code of practice introduced by Ofgem in autumn 2023, prepayment meters must only be installed where it is safe and the customer can easily use and access it.

The code also bans energy suppliers from forcibly installing prepayment meters for residents aged 75 and older and says suppliers must visit properties before installing prepayment meters. Vulnerable customers can ask for a meter to be relocated.

Ofgem stated they expect suppliers to carefully consider whether their customers’ meters are safe and appropriate for them to use, and to proactively identify if a customer may be vulnerable and in need of further support.