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Electrical Safety Standards in the private rented sector: working group report

Friday 10 November 2017

A Government working group of industry experts set up to assess the current electrical safety risk to private sector tenants and provide guidance on any legislative requirements, have now published their view on the regulation and standards on electrical safety within the private rented sector PRS.

Following the passing of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, and calls from MPs, the PRS Electrical Safety Working Group was established by the Department for Communities & Local Government, which allows for the enforcement and regulation of electrical safety standards in the sector.

The PRS has undergone rapid growth in the last 10 years, with 4.5 million households now privately rented.

But whilst general standards in the private sector appear to be improving, tenants are facing a higher risk of incidents from electrical faults in their homes. Data from London Fire Brigade shows that, of the fires investigated in London since 2010, there has been no reduction in fires in PRS properties, and of the fires they investigated in the last five years in London, 748 were caused by an electrical source of ignition, compared to 97 caused by a gas source.

The Scottish Government recently introduced regulation for mandatory five-yearly electrical checks, of the electrical installation and electrical appliances supplied with privately rented homes by a registered electrician. The Welsh Government is also currently considering options to introduce duties on electrical safety standards in Wales.

Working group members discussed a variety of legislative and non-legislative options, and ultimately, the report makes eight recommendations:

1. Five yearly mandatory electrical installation checks should be set out in secondary legislation.

2. Visual checks of the safety of the electrical installation by landlords at a change of tenancy should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance.

3. A report should be issued to the landlord which confirms that an EICR has been completed along with confirmation that any remedial work necessary has been undertaken satisfactorily. A copy should be issued to the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy and should be made available to local authorities on request.

4. Landlord supplied electrical appliance testing and visual checks of electrical appliances by landlords at a change of tenancy should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance.

5. The installation of Residual Current Devices (RCDs) by landlords should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance.

6. A PRS electrical testing competent person scheme should be set up which would be separate from the existing Building Regulations competent person scheme.

7. DCLG should commission the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS) management committee to consider the most effective method of assessing ‘competent PRS testers’ to carry out electrical inspections and tests.

8. Legislative requirements should be phased in, beginning with new tenancies, followed by all existing tenancies.

The recommendations have been made to the Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, who will ultimately make the decision on whether they are carried forward. There has been no indication yet as to a timeline.

Phil Buckle, Chief Executive at Electrical Safety First said:

“We are extremely disappointed that the Government is not recommending policy change, following the publication of today’s report. The tragic fire at Grenfell House made it clear that more has to be done in order to protect people who are living in rented accommodation. Currently, there is an ’expectation’ on landlords to keep electrical installations safe, but no legal obligation. This means that the electrics and appliances contained within rented properties could go unchecked for many years presenting a serious risk of fire”.

ARLA Propertymark Chief Executive David Cox commented:

“ARLA Propertymark supports measures to increase the standards of electrical safety in order to benefit tenants without introducing excessive regulation and costs for landlords and letting agents. We were a key member of the Working Group and helped shape the recommendations. Crucially, there is currently no mandatory requirements for electrical checks in private rented property, so it’s vitally important that the Government act quickly to test the recommendations and ensure that the rules around electrical safety are tightened and implemented as soon as possible.”