Future on fire: Generation rent at risk of 20% rise in electrical fires due to lack of regulation

16 April 2018

People living in privately rented homes are disproportionately at risk of electrical fires and hazards due to a lack of mandatory safety checks

Each year more than 20,000 house fires in England are caused by electricity[i], and by 2025 the number of electrical fires in privately rented homes is expected to rise by almost twenty per cent, according to new research by Electrical Safety First[ii].

More than 9 million people and 1.3 million families privately rent in England, where there are higher levels of disrepair and standards are significantly lower, due to a lack of regulations.

The private rented sector has a higher proportion of older homes than any other housing sector, with around fifty per cent of all rental properties pre-dating 1945[iii]. Worryingly, the electrics and appliances in these homes have potentially never been checked presenting a serious risk of fire or electric shock.

This research comes as a Government consultation into electrical safety in the private rented sector closes. Electrical Safety First, which sits on the Electrical Safety Working Group provided recommendations to the public consultation.

The charity is campaigning for five-yearly mandatory electrical checks to be introduced to give tenants the protection they urgently need.  These checks have already been introduced in Scotland and it is now long overdue for this regime to be extended to the rest of the UK.

There is currently no legal requirement on landlords in England to ensure that electrical installations are regularly checked and no evidence is required to demonstrate to tenants that the electrics are safe.

Ten years ago thirty-three year old Thirza Whittall was found dead in the bathroom by her five-year-old daughter after being electrocuted by faulty wiring in the family’s rented home; wiring that had not been checked for years.

Thirza had been running a bath when an electric current made its way through the taps and into the water. Her story marks just one of the tragedies the Charity is calling on the Government to prevent in bolstering protection for renters across the country.

Thirza’s mother, Jane Andain said:

“The tenth anniversary of Thirza’s death has been a very difficult time for the family. What happened to my daughter was a tragedy, but could have easily been avoided if her landlady had made sure the electrics were properly and regularly checked. It is unacceptable that after all this time there is still no law in place to protect tenants like my daughter”.

Phil Buckle, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First said:

“Electrical Safety First has long been campaigning for the introduction of mandatory five-yearly checks on electrical installations in privately rented homes, which were unanimously backed by the Electrical Safety Working Group two years ago.

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. Without regular checks, we believe that the number of fires caused by electricity in the private rented sector will only get worse.”


For more information please contact:

Sophia Alipour T: 07866 702069 E: sophia.alipour@electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk

Joshua Drew T : 07864009875 E: joshua.drew@electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk

Editors’ Notes

  • Electrical Safety First is a UK Charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity. More information can be found at http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk
  • Download the research report here.


[i] Home Office Fire Statistics on incidents attended by Fire and Rescue Services. Accessible at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fire-statistics-data-tables#incident-level-datasets

[ii] Research was carried out by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service for Electrical Safety First in January 2017.

[iii] English Housing Survey Headline Report 2016-17. Accessible at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/english-housing-survey-2016-to-2017-headline-report