Electrical Safety First was invited to give evidence to the Northern Ireland Committee for Communities on the progressing Private Tenancies Bill. Our Technical Director, Martyn Allen, represented the Charity in discussions around the Bill’s electrical safety aspects.
We have long campaigned for equal protection for private tenants throughout the UK. Mandatory five-yearly electrical safety checks in privately rented homes are now in place in England and Scotland, and we welcome the Private Tenancies Bill which will introduce regulations in Northern Ireland. However, we believe the Bill could be strengthened by including a requirement for electrical checks to be carried out at least every five years, bringing regulation in line with existing legislation in Northern Ireland for Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs).
Although the cost of these checks would fall on the landlord, this is not an unreasonable financial burden. At a cost of around £200 to have the inspection carried out, this is just £40 each year, and gives private landlords the peace of mind that their properties and tenants are protected from electrical risks.
We also called for any electrical appliances provided by the landlord to be subject to Portable Appliance Testing (PAT). With an estimated 63% of electrical house fires in Northern Ireland caused by appliances, a requirement for regular testing has the potential to play a key role in mitigating the cause of fires in privately rented properties.
It is vital that these electrical safety checks must be carried out by a qualified and competent person. And it’s important that landlords have access to an easy to use and single information point to help them find these competent professionals.
The Department has a role to play in providing guidance to accompany the introduction of the electrical safety regulations, as was the case in Scotland and England, and we would be happy to work alongside them to ensure a smooth introduction of the new legislation.
In conclusion, Martyn commented:
“Under the proposals in this Bill, renters will be granted better protections from dangerous electrical hazards. The same regulations already exist for tenants in England and Scotland and the introduction of this Bill will finally give renters in Northern Ireland the protections they deserve. We believe; however, the Bill can be strengthened. The proposed safety checks should be mandated every five years”.
You can read our full briefing note on the Private Tenancies Bill below.
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