Private Rented Sector Review
Electrical Safety First – the Charity formerly known as the Electrical Safety Council - is asking stakeholders to support its position on the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Review of Property Conditions in the Private Rented Sector (PRS).
A recent DCLG discussion document has incorporated a number of key safety issues Electrical Safety First has long lobbied for: in particular whether or not landlords should be legally required to have electrical installations regularly checked.
Electrical Safety First wants the introduction of mandatory, five-yearly safety checks by a competent person of electrical installations in PRS properties, along with any electrical appliance supplied with them.
Currently, registered houses in multiple occupation are already required to have a five year review of the electrical installation. But a blanket requirement for such testing in all PRS homes would reduce confusion around best practice and provide a degree of parity with gas safety, which landlords must have checked every year. The cost for this essential precaution would be minimal – an estimated £100-£150 per inspection. 
Surprisingly, the discussion paper does not consider electrical appliances, despite the fact that they cause around 17,000 domestic fires each year and result in 40-45 deaths.  In addition to the human tragedy, there is a significant financial cost, as it’s estimated that the average cost of a domestic fire is more than £44.5K. 
However, the paper does suggest Local Authorities may be restricted in using selective licensing, a view Electrical Safety First rejects. Although we have consistently called for PRS safety requirements at a national level, we believe that the diversity of local issues affecting the sector means local councils should be given the freedom to deal with the specific problems in their community.
“Another important issue raised by the DCLG discussion document is how to increase awareness of respective responsibilities amongst landlords and tenants”, adds Phil Buckle, Director General of Electrical Safety First. “We know this is essential as our own research shows three in ten landlords and 40% of renters do not know who is responsible for the electrical safety of their home.  And other research has indicated that 16% of PRS tenants live in homes containing electrical hazards.  So improving awareness is not only a safety fundamental but also a cost-effective way of improving the sector.”
 Monthly Lettings Index, Countrywide, February 2014
 ESC Core Data Set, derived from GB-wide DCLG fire statistics
 DCLG: The Economic Cost of Fire, estimates for 2008
 Home Truths Campaign. Research undertaken by Populus June 2013
Can’t complain: why poor conditions prevail in private rented homes. Shelter, March 2014
- Electrical Safety First has offered detailed recommendations regarding PRS licensing in House Proud, our joint report with the Local Government Information Unit. The report can be downloaded here: http://www.lgiu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/House-Proud-how-councils-can-raise-standards-in-the-private-rented-sector-.pdf.
- Electrical Safety First also supports the limitation of section 21 eviction notices - as comparable legislation is already effective overseas – and the proposal to make smoke and carbon monoxide detectors a legal requirement.