THOUSANDS of householders have been warned they are effectively without insurance because they used unregistered tradesmen to work on their gas heating systems.
More than 10,000 gas boilers were installed by unregistered workers in 2001 alone, meaning that thousands of homes have been illegally fitted with potentially dangerous gas boilers.
Now the Consumers Association has warned householders not to use unregistered fitters to carry out work on domestic gas fires and boilers.
Consumers may save money in the short term by getting someone to do a 'nixer', but they could be big losers if they have to make a claim to their insurer, Dermott Jewell of the association said.
Chief executive of the Irish Brokers Association Ciaran Phelan confirmed that householders were not only exposing themselves to the likelihood of dodgy work, but taking a huge financial gamble also.
"Homeowners may often think they are getting a better deal by dealing with uninsured tradesmen. However, if something goes wrong, there could be serious financial consequences.
"These costs may or may not be covered under your home policy, and often far outweigh what was saved in the first place," Mr Phelan said.
The Consumers Association has called on insurance companies to clarify if they will pay out on claims where householders have used unregistered tradesmen.
A survey carried out by the association found that 27,500 boilers were sold in 2011, but only 17,500 of these installations were registered.
The consumers' body called on insurers to make it clear if they will pay out for work by unregistered installers, so householders can avoid a situation similar to the one which saw owners of houses with pyrite damage not covered by insurance.
Mr Jewell said: "We are worried that where a claim involves damage caused by faulty gas equipment, the insurance company will look for evidence that previous servicing work was done by a registered installer. "If the householder cannot provide this evidence, we fear the insurance companies just won't pay."
The consumer body called on the Oireachtas Committee on Transport Energy and Communications to question the energy regulator on the issue. "We wrote to the CER (Commission for Energy Regulation) making them aware of our survey results last December, but have yet to receive any response to the data.
"We hope the Oireachtas Committee will have more success in getting them to engage on this issue," he said. Michael Horan of the Irish Insurance Federation said insurers would generally pay out for an explosion or a fire, due to a problem with a gas boiler.