Landlords risking lives and livlihoods by ignoring electrical safety

06 June 2013

Home Truths

Landlords are exposing millions of tenants to dangers and could face huge fines.

  • 1.7 million private renters report electrical faults that are ignored or acted on too late
  • Private tenants more likely to be affected by electrical accidents and fires
  • Landlord fines have increased to £20,000 but many don’t know fines exist at all
  • The Electrical Safety Council calls for landlord action to protect safety of tenants

A new study by the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) finds landlords are exposing themselves to significant financial risks, from fines and invalidated insurance, through not acting on their electrical safety obligations. Ignoring their responsibilities means landlords are also putting millions of UK private tenants at risk of serious accident or fire.

The ESC found 1.7 million private renters  have reported electrical concerns that were either ignored by their landlord or acted on too slowly, and 1.3 million renters  are currently waiting for electrical issues to be resolved. No wonder that more than 2 million private tenants  have expressed concern about the electrical safety of their home.

The ESC study hoped to gauge landlord’s awareness of the fact fines for failing to maintain adequate electrical safety have risen from £5,000 to £20,000, but instead found a fifth  - around 300,000 private landlords - still believed there were no fines at all. Added to this, many landlords did not know their insurance may be invalidated if they fail to follow their obligations.

The situation is a real concern as electrical accidents cause more than 350,000 serious injuries each year and cause more than half of all accidental house fires. However, tenants are most at risk – they are more likely to experience a serious electric shock  than home owners and may be up to seven times more likely to experience a house fire . The ESC is concerned that unless landlords take action, the situation will further deteriorate.

The problem arises from a lack of understanding over who is responsible for the electrical safety of a private rented property. Almost half of all landlords and tenants  admitted they had no idea who was responsible for electrical safety and as a result crucial aspects are ignored.

By law, landlords must ensure electrical installations and wiring are maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy . The ESC recommends landlords should have electrical appliances and installations checked at least every five years by a registered electrician, along with carrying out regular visual checks themselves. Anyone can find a local registered electrician by visiting the Electrical Safety Register:

Phil Buckle, Director General of the Electrical Safety Council, said: “We’ve found that many landlords are ignorant of their responsibilities. In the long term, we’d like to see tighter guidelines for landlords on electrical safety but with the number of non-professional landlords increasing every day, we also need to address this now. We need all landlords to understand that they are not only putting people’s lives at risk, but they could also face serious financial loss through fines or invalidated insurance if they don’t act on their existing obligations.”

Tenants can help themselves by maintaining electrical items they bring into the house and by reporting hazards to their landlord immediately. The ESC also advises that they ask the landlord for evidence that electrical safety checks have been conducted or approved by a registered electrician, before moving in. Whilst no legislation exists for tenant responsibilities relating to electrical safety, if they are complacent to the issues then it could result in a serious accident.

The ESC has produced a free guide for landlords on their electrical safety responsibilities, along with an online resource outlining recommended actions for landlords and tenants, to give clarity over responsibilities – both are available at A key recommendation is to download the ESC’s free ‘Home Electrical Safety Checks’ smartphone app, which allows anyone to do a quick visual check to ensure a property is electrically safe.

Kay Boycott, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Communications at Shelter, said: “With more and more people now renting their homes, it’s more important than ever that landlords take their responsibility for electrical safety seriously. Most do the right thing, but at Shelter we still hear from families across the country who are living with the knowledge that an electrical fault in their home is putting their safety at risk".

Notes to Editors:

  • The ESC’s free smartphone app ‘Home Electrical Safety Checks’ highlights potential dangers in each room and explains how to resolve simple problems or where they should be flagged to an electrician, also allowing users to find local registered electricians through the Electrical Safety Register. The app can also be used by tenants to flag issues to landlords with confidence. The app is available for iPhone and Android.
  • The Electrical Safety Register is owned by the leading organisations dedicated to the electrical contracting industry and electrical safety, the Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) and the Electrical Safety Council (ESC). With more than 36,000 contractors listed makes it easier for homeowners to ensure they employ a trusted and safe electrician. All the electricians have been assessed to rigorous standards.
  • All research unless otherwise stated conducted between 17th and 24th May 2013 by Populus on behalf of the Electrical Safety Council with a sample of 4,093 UK adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  • The ESC has also undertaken research through the Local Government Information Unit and found 80% of local authorities are planning to take a more proactive approach to the PRS in the future. The ESC will be engaging with local authorities later in 2013 to identify and share best practice to ensure safety risks can be addressed most effectively. The research identified a number schemes already underway – for example, Bristol City Council organises free training for landlords and punishes those that don’t act on their obligations – it prosecuted 15 landlords over safety negligence in the past year, issued five with cautions and worked with 50 other landlords who agreed to make changes before fines were issued.
  • Adding to the concerns highlighted in the ESC landlords research, the English Housing Survey 2012, which was published in February 2013 reported that 21% of homes in England are reported to have category 1 hazards, the most serious category of safety hazards.
  • A spokesperson from the Association of British Insurers said: “Whilst the specifics of each insurance policy will vary, all insurers will expect landlords to comply with any current laws or regulations in regard to electrical safety - failure to do so may result in voidance of their policy. Electrical work is expected to be carried out by a qualified professional. Following the guidance from the Electrical Safety Council will help ensure people can be confident their houses are safe and their insurance policy will cover them should they need to make a claim.”

For more information please contact Penny Walshe on 020 3463 5125 or at