Improving Safety For Social Renters

30 March 2021



In 2019-20, six times more fires in England’s homes were caused by electricity than by gas.  But legislation offers renters different levels of protection from electrical risk in different tenures. 

A new policy paper, Improving Electrical Safety for Tenants in the Social Rented Sector in England, by leading consumer safety charity, Electrical Safety First, considers how ambiguous legislation can leave England’s social housing tenants at greater risk - and why the current ‘tenure lottery’ must be addressed. It also includes the outcomes of the Charity’s recent consultation with the sector. Respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of a key proposal -  mandatory, five yearly electrical checks for all social housing tenants.

By law, social landlords in England must ensure their housing stock is electrically safe. However, this is covered by a patchwork of legislation and ambiguity around how this is demonstrated. The Charity’s policy paper - developed in consultation with the sector – shows why specific legislation, like that introduced in the private rented sector, would remove confusion and clarify requirements.

“While many of the Local Authorities and Housing Associations who responded to us already undertake regular electrical checks of their properties, they consider a defined, legal requirement would provide clarity and bring electrical safety more into line with gas safety checks, which are undertaken each year”, explains Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First. “It was also felt that a legal requirement would help address the sector-wide problem of gaining access for safety reviews and repairs.”

Electrical Safety First’s paper also examines how a changing legislative landscape, aimed at making our homes greener, will make electrical safety in the sector of even greater importance. 

The Government’s Future Homes Standard will require all new homes, from 2025, to be future-proofed and provide low carbon heating. So electricity, now increasingly produced from renewable sources, is set to play a key role in, for example, new builds. The need for retro-fitting low carbon heating in existing homes will be a greater challenge – particularly for social housing providers, given the age of their housing stock.

“Following engagement with Lord Greenhalgh, Minister for Building Safety and Communities, Electrical Safety First has secured an agreement for the establishment of a review into electrical safety in the social rented sector (SRS). The review will be steered by a working group, of which we are a member”, adds Lesley.

“The responses to our consultation from social housing providers show that the sector is safety conscious and supportive of the introduction of mandatory, five yearly, electrical checks. Electrical Safety First looks forward to working with the SRS, and Government, to make this happen. It is this sort of collaboration that will ensure the safety of our green – and electric - future.”

To download a copy of the policy paper -  Improving Electrical Safety for Tenants in the Social Rented Sector in England – click here.


  • Electrical Safety First’s SRS consultation involved many housing associations including some of the UK’s largest. The responses from the sector represent the views of associations  responsible for hundreds of thousands of homes. Further details can be found in the policy paper appendix.
  • Electrical Safety First led the charge for mandatory, five yearly, checks on electrical installations for the private rented sector (PRS). These became a legal requirement in Scotland in 2015 and in England from June 2020.The Welsh government has committed to introducing these checks in both the private and social rented sectors simultaneously, while Scotland extended the requirement to social landlords in June 2020.