Electrical safety standards in the UK’s privately-rented homes should be addressed by the new government, a leading charity has said.
In a Parliamentary Briefing following the Queen’s Speech, Electrical Safety First pointed out that 2013 to 2014 saw a total of 49 deaths caused by electrical fires at home – or a higher number than in the previous year – and that 37% of these were caused by electrical distribution.
Therefore, it said the Housing Bill – which intends to extend the Right to Buy scheme – should feature safety clauses for obligatory five-yearly electrical safety check on all electrical appliances and installations supplied in private rented homes, and that these must be undertaken by a competent person.
The number of households in the private rented sector is growing – currently, at least 18% of UK households, or more than 1.3 million families and nine million people, rent – and as regular electrical safety checks are not mandatory, the hazards electricity poses to these tenants increases every year, the charity argued.
It pointed out:
- One-third of all homes in the private rented sector do not meet the government’s Decent Homes Standards, as privately-rented homes do not need to achieve these standards.
- Three-fifths have seen a gas leak or electrical home emergency in the last year.
Landlords can currently neglect their obligations to keep their property portfolio in a safe standard, the organisation suggested, noting that almost half of the growth the private rented sector has seen in the last two years has come from families with children, so low consumer nobility with high demand means some property investors are confident that their residences can be let regardless of quality.
Electrical Safety First also welcomed the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, which intends to devolve powers to England’s cities, explaining that local authorities intend for housing standards to improve.
In fact, a 2013 poll of local authority councillors and officers revealed that 80% would like their authority to take a more active role in the private rented sector, primarily due to worries about gas and electrical safety standards.
The Cities Devolution Bills and Housing Bill represent an “opportunity to improve standards” in England and Wales’ housing stock, the charity remarked.
Some of Electrical Safety Frist’s other key ambitions include:
- The outlawing of ‘revenge evictions’ following complaints about electrical appliances or other electrical faults;
- Mandatory residual current devices in all privately-rented homes;
- Opportunities for free five-yearly electrical safety checks for all households with at least one resident over the age of 75;
- Mandatory five-yearly safety checks in care homes;
- Improved traceability for owners of electrical appliances to ensure they can be notified in the event of a recall;
- Government publishing of recall information;
- Improved funding for Trading Standards; and
- Improved public awareness of the importance of registered electricians and the dangers of electrical work.
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