Our boiler has been playing since the weekend and ideally we need a plumber to come over to check it before packing it for good, eliminating the need for heating or hot water.
Given the current coronavirus outbreak, are traders still allowed to come home to do the necessary maintenance?
If so, what should we do? Should we ask them if they have had Covid-19 symptoms?
Can plumbers start repairing people’s boilers if they break during the pandemic?
Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: Now that the lockdown is in place, the number of questions about what people can and cannot do is growing.
One of the main questions is about traders and whether or not they should come home.
Having a broken boiler is certainly tricky and, at a time like this, incredibly tricky, especially since you’ll be spending even more time at home than usual.
Chances are that more boilers are under pressure and that people at home make more use of hot water and heating.
As to whether you can have it repaired, there is currently no overarching rule as to whether engineers can still make house calls, and it depends on each company individually what they decide to do.
Ofgem, the energy watchdog, said it expects suppliers to have the ‘safety, health and wellbeing of their customers as their central priority, with particular attention to risks to vulnerable customers or where customers are at risk of interrupting supply or have gone out delivery. ‘
How this is worked out by every plumbing company is up to them. This is Money spoke to a few well-known companies to see how they respond to the corona virus.
Pimlico plumbers, London’s largest independent plumbing company, said it currently provides an emergency service for all essential work and screens all calls prior to booking to determine if customers have had symptoms of the corona virus before proceeding with the booking.
It added that when engineers arrive at the customer’s house, they call them on their phone so they can open the door and then insulate themselves while the engineer does the work.
The engineers wear foot coverings, gloves and face masks, and all vans have a sink so they can wash their hands before and after work. They also all have a hand sanitizer.
Customers are advised to contact their local plumber to see if they can make repairs
A British Gas spokesperson replies: At this point, we should avoid unnecessary contact, but we still respond to our customers whose boilers are broken and have no heating or hot water because we would prioritize that as an emergency work – we can’t do non-essentials like annual visit service, for example.
Vulnerable customers and emergency work is our absolute priority.
We also ask our customers to contact us only in an emergency, as our call centers are focused on helping vulnerable customers and those in need.
This means that those who need us urgently can reach us.
A spokesperson for EDF’s responses: The health and well-being of our customers and employees is always our top priority.
When a customer contacts us, we will ask if there is a risk to themselves or our engineer.
In an emergency, an engineer will further assess the situation locally and, if safe to do so, enter a property and do his best to ensure our customers’ boilers are operational. To do this, our engineers wear a number of personal protective equipment to minimize the potential risks.
All steps and preventative measures are explained to the customer at the time of making an appointment and by our engineer prior to visiting a customer’s home.
A Uswitch spokesperson replies: The first thing to do is to call your local plumber or your boiler cover supplier to see if they even send their teams out to do repairs now.
If so, they may have certain criteria that must be met first, such as whether it’s an emergency or an essential repair – you could argue that packing your boiler requires essential repairs.
They may also ask if someone in your home has symptoms or has had contact with someone who has. Likewise, you should ask them to monitor the health of their staff to minimize the risks of someone bringing COVID-19 into your home.
They may also ask you to have them examine the boiler through a video call first to see if they can diagnose the problem before they arrived and minimize the time they spend in your house.
Finally, if they’ve sent someone to do the repair, keep following the social distance guidelines and stay as far away from them as possible when they get to your house.
While there ultimately seems to be a valid reason for having someone come to your home, first make sure that you are comfortable with it and take all necessary steps to mitigate the risks to yourself and the person who comes to your home first. to a minimum, such as cleaning surfaces that the boiler repairman is likely to touch before arriving and after leaving.
Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: You should check with a local plumber to see if they are willing to come out and make repairs.
You may need to make some phone calls to find someone willing to come out, or someone else.
If they are happy to come out, make sure you still keep social distance and wipe any surfaces the engineer touches after they leave.
You should also make sure they are in full protective gear when entering the house.
Unfortunately, you may have to wait until it’s completely broken before agreeing to a home visit.
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