The housing charity Shelter and the UK charity Electrical Safety First issued a report last week into the horrifying electrical safety standards found in privately rented homes.
With the private rented sector now housing 9 million people in the UK and 1.3 million families, it is alarming that 16% of private rental tenants have reported a problem pertaining to electrical hazards in just the last year.
Who is affected?
Electrical hazards in the private rented sector isn't just a problem at the bottom end of the market. Electrical danger can exist in any home, and as a tenant is is important to be aware of some essential information which will enable you to determine how safe your rental home is.
The report produced by Shelter and Electrical Safety First highlighted a case where a lady was found dead in her bath as a result of electricity going through the bath taps and into the water. This is a particularly devastating example of how dangerous electricity can be. The property was once a holiday home so could be described as a picture postcard property rather than a potential death trap to the untrained eye.
In a nutshell, electrical dangers are not exclusive to dingy flats and can occur in any property.
Why are private rental properties being targeted?
Unfortunately private rental properties have been found to be the most electrically unsafe when compared to social housing and privately owned homes. A third of homes in the private rental sector fail to meet Government set safety standards and over 60% of renters have experienced major problems such as electrical hazards, gas leaks, damp and mould, animal infestation and water leaks in just the last year alone.
Tenants have reported that landlords have failed to respond to problems reported to them, with landlords becoming aggressive, threatening and charging for repairs. Tenants have even been evicted for reporting serious problems leaving many tenants living in dangerous conditions fearful of reporting them.
The problem has now reached the Government Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) who have identified that the private rental sector is subject to weak and inconsistent regulation and is proposing some changes which will make the lives of tenants much easier and prevent many of deaths and electrical injury that tragically take place every week in the UK. In fact 2.5 million UK people experience a mains voltage electrical shock every year with 20,000 house fires caused by defective electrical appliances and wiring alone.
What changes are being proposed?
As an electrician in Nottingham I feel this is totally unacceptable and fully support the Government Reforms which address the very real issue of electrical safety in privately rented homes. The key reforms are:
Mandatory 5 year electrical safety checks
Having rental homes checked for electrical safety every 5 years will prevent devastating cases like the lady in the bath scenario. Currently electrical safety is unregulated and rental properties often have electrical problems that are unseen until a serious incident occurs. Electrical safety checks which are known as an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) have to be carried out by a qualified and registered electrician. As an electrician in Nottingham, I already carry out EICR's for responsible landlords in the city. A certificate will be given to the landlord when an EICR is satisfactorily completed.
RCD protection should be in all privately rented homes. A Residual Current Device (RCD) is fitted to a consumer unit and cuts the power almost instantaneously if electrical faults are detected such as an appliance malfunctioning or someone in the home accidentally touching a live wire or part. RCD protection normally form part of a consumer unit upgrade and as an electrician in Nottingham I recommend that all local landlords have RCD protection in their rental properties.
Other changes proposed will encourage tenants to report problems before they become a danger to life.
Prevention of landlords issuing a section 21 notice to tenants who have reported poor conditions
Tenants who currently feel unable to report problems will have the peace of mind that they will not face eviction for reporting serious hazards in their property. Landlords who issue a section 21 notice to a tenant who has previously reported such hazards will have it automatically invalidated. The landlord will then not be able to issue a further section 21 notice for 6 months.
Local authorities encouraged to take enforcement action
This is a particularly good idea. A while back, I visited a student property in Nottingham where the electrics had been nuisance tripping. The problem had been reported to the landlord who refused to admit there was an electrical problem. The matter came to a head when the tenants refused to pay the rent and the university got involved. To add insult to injury, the tenants were also accused of breaking the tenancy rules as they had a cat at the property! Luckily the tenants contacted the local authority, who acted on their behalf to bring about enforcement action to address the electrical issues.
What these changes will mean
To the majority of landlords and letting agents who take the safety of their tenants seriously, this will not mean any change. The changes are based upon common sense and is simply bringing electrical safety in line with other safety requirements such as gas. In fact 59% of landlords have regular electrical inspections carried out already with only 23% of landlords admitting that they never have these done.
Landlords who continue to flout these reforms could face unlimited fines. The cap on Housing Act offences will soon be lifted. Landlords prosecuted under the Housing Act 2004 could face unlimited fines.
As an electrician in Nottingham, I work with landlords and letting agents in and around Nottingham to ensure that their rental properties are up to rental standard. I recommend that your property is checked for electrical compliance by a qualified and registered electrician before the changes are imposed. I am more than happy to help you achieve compliance so please do not hesitate to give me a call today.