What to do if a neighbour is stealing electricity

Do you suspect your neighbour of energy theft? We’ve got the scoop on what to look out for and how to handle the situation safely and effectively.  

Do you suspect your neighbour of energy theft? We’ve got the scoop on what to look out for and how to handle the situation safely and effectively.  

Sofia Hutson
From the Energy team
minute read
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Posted 6 FEBRUARY 2020

What is energy theft?

Energy theft involves someone intentionally stealing gas or electricity, or paying less than they should do by tampering with or bypassing their own meter. It might have never crossed your mind, but it’s estimated that energy theft is costing the UK around £500 million a year. That's roughly £20 per household.

Energy theft isn’t just a financial issue. It’s also dangerous – responsible for at least two deaths and 36 injuries each year.

That’s because electricity theft often leaves wires exposed, which can cause fatal electric shocks, start fires and even trigger explosions. If a gas meter is tampered with it can cause gas leaks, which could risk explosions and fires.

With that in mind, investigating potential energy theft in your own home should be approached with extreme caution. In fact, it’s far better to let the authorities deal with it instead.

How can I tell if my neighbour is stealing my electricity?

Keep an eye on your bills. If you notice that your usage starts to increase without any other explanation, there’s a chance that someone is stealing your electricity.

However, it’s important to first rule out other reasons for a high energy bill.

If energy theft is indeed to blame, there’ll often be other signs. These may include:

  • Changes to your wiring. Take a look at the wire that runs between your meter and your house (don’t touch it!). If you notice anything odd, there’s a chance that someone’s tampered with it. Also be on the look-out for any wires connecting your home to your neighbour’s.
  • Your meter acting strangely. If your meter keeps running even after you switch off your circuit breakers, it’s an indication that something is taking power from between the electric panel and the meter itself.

How can I tell if my gas meter has been tampered with?

Some of the signs of tampering with a gas supply or meter according to stayenergysafe are:

  • A gas leak
  • The meter has been turned round the wrong way
  • There are rubber tubes instead of proper piping
  • A dial isn't visible on the meter
  • The dials don't turn even when gas is being used
  • The meter shows no credit but the gas is still working.

See our guide to what to do if you smell gas. 

What do I do if I suspect my neighbour is stealing my electricity or gas, or that my meter has been tampered with?

It’s important to alert the relevant authorities because energy theft can make meters unsafe. You can get the ball rolling by:

  • Submitting an anonymous tip-off online, via the stayenergysafe website or call stayenergysafe on 0800 023 2777 – you are guaranteed 100% anonymity.
  • Once a report has been made, the relevant energy supplier will be notified. The meter will then be inspected and removed, or exchanged if a problem is found
  • Contacting your energy supplier directly, to report the issue
  • Calling the UK Revenue Protection Association (UKRPA) on 0207 090 1070 or completing their online fraud report form
  • Calling the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.

Who’s most at risk from energy theft?

Unfortunately, nobody’s completely safe. It’s thought that approximately three million unsuspecting UK homes are currently affected by energy theft.

What are the penalties for energy theft?

Around 1,500 people are charged with energy theft every year. Some examples of punishments handed out by courts include a Cornish restaurant owner being sent to prison for two and a half years, and a London man being fined £50,000 and sent to prison for damaging the power supply to more than 15,000 homes, according to stayenergysafe.

Switching energy suppliers

Of course, a big energy bill doesn’t always mean you’re having energy stolen. It might be time to switch to a new energy supplier for a better tariff. Compare the Market can help you find energy plans from a range of trusted UK energy suppliers. All you have to do is give us a few details and click for a quote. So why not see if you can save today?

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