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Social housing sector crying out for electrical safety checks

Mandate electrical checks across all rented housing in the same way as gas safety, urges charity.
15 April 2021 , Sarah Campbell

The ‘tenure lottery’ of electrical safety checks must be stopped through the introduction mandatory regular checks in the social rented sector (SRS), according to safety charity Electrical Safety First (ESF).

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

Compulsory five-yearly checks in electrical installations in the private rented sector (PRS) became a legal requirement in Scotland in 2015 and in England from June 2020, following campaigning by ESF.

The SRS, however, has lagged behind, with only Scotland successfully introducing a requirement for checks in June 2020. In England, a review of SRS legislation initiated by Lord Greenhalgh, minister for building safety and communities, has just got under way with ESF a part of the review group. The Welsh government has no legislation in place for either sector but has committed to introducing checks in both sectors simultaneously. There is no equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland.

Lesley Rudd, ESF chief executive, said: “ESF campaigned for mandatory checks in the PRS initially because the evidence and statistics showed that fatalities [from electrical safety incidents] are higher in the PRS, so we focused on where the biggest risk was and where you can make the biggest difference.”

She added that in the SRS most landlords do have an inspection regime in place but it's a ‘mixed approach’ covered by a ‘patchwork of legislation’ including the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, Localism Act 2011, Housing Act 2004, Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, IET Wiring Regulations and Part P ‘Electrical Safety’ of the Building Regulations 2010.

“We should now take the legislation to the next stage in social housing. We found in our consultation with the sector that most social landlords are well on board with this – if checks were mandated it would make their life easier in terms of things like gaining access to premises for an inspection. We know that where it’s mandated, the access rates are better,” Rudd said.

• Read ESF’s policy paper Improving Electrical Safety for Tenants in the Social Rented Sector in England and view their guidance and tools.

Read an interview with Lesley Rudd in the May 2021 issue of EHN, out at the beginning of May.

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