Inequality Street

The need for electrical safety equality in housing in Scotland

Despite electricity being the number one cause of all of Scotland’s domestic fires[1], housing legislation is subject to a ‘tenure lottery’ - with different ‘levels’ of protection for different tenures. We believe everybody should feel electrically safe in their home, regardless of tenure. 

In 2015, Scotland led the UK in improving protection for private renters by introducing mandatory electrical checks in the Private Rented Sector (PRS).  Our ‘Inequality Street’ campaign has since achieved the introduction of mandatory RCDs (Residual Current Devices)[2] in the PRS, which will come into force in 2024, and most recently a requirement for five-yearly electrical safety checks in the Social Rented Sector. 

Owner-occupied homes, on the other hand, are only required to meet the minimum ‘Tolerable Standard’ - which has no statutory underpinning and only a basic electrical safety element.  We also have specific safety concerns with tenements and flats because of the potential impact of fire on other occupiers. And, often, their sheer population density.

Key Facts and Figures 

  • Three quarters of house fires are caused by electricity in Scotland, and 44 people have lost their lives in electrical dwelling fires between 2014-2019.[3]

  • The owner-occupied sector is now the most vulnerable to electrical risk - it’s the largest housing tenure in Scotland and the majority of older people live in owner-occupied properties.
  • Official figures show that people over 60 in Scotland are at a greater risk from fires in the home than any other age group. Of the casualties recorded in electrical dwelling fires between 2014 and 2019, 36% were aged 60+.[4]
  • Over half (51%) of Scottish homeowners either haven’t or don’t know, if their property has been inspected by an electrician in the last ten years.[5]
  • 47% of electrical dwelling fires occurred in flats or tenements during 2019. This level has remained constant for the last 6 years.[6]

We believe there needs to be a common, cross-tenure, housing standard for electrical safety in Scotland, and this could be achieved through a harmonisation of existing standards and obligations. 

Our Proposals

  • A move towards mandatory electrical safety checks for all homes.
  • The more immediate introduction of a common electrical safety standard for all rented sectors – bringing social housing in line with the PRS.
  • This would require the mandatory fitting of RCDs for social housing.
  • Owner of flats should be required to complete mandatory electrical safety checks.
  • A requirement for landlords to register any new electrical appliances they provide with lets and to ensure they are not subject to any product recalls or safety alerts.
  • New in-depth research to understand any specific electrical risks in blocks of flats and tenements.

Find out more about our ‘Inequality Street’ campaign here:

 

[1] Electrical Safety First methodology of fire data provided by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in February 2020 

[2] A Residual Current Device (RCD) is a life saving device designed to prevent you from getting a fatal electric shock.  

[3] Electrical Safety First methodology of fire data provided by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in February 2020 

[4] Ibid

[5] YouGov survey of Scottish homeowners with fieldwork undertaken 21st - 28th February 2017. Unweighted sample of 1884.  

[6] Electrical Safety First methodology of fire data provided by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in February 2020