Saving lives through mandatory electrical safety checks

Sadly, every year 350,000 people are injured because of electrical faults in the home. Distressingly, 70 people are killed each year too – people like Jane’s daughter, Thirza:

 “Six years ago my daughter, Thirza, moved to Cornwall with her husband, Fred, and their two young children. […] A few months later, Thirza was found dead in the bath by her five year old daughter.”

 Thirza and Fred had moved in to a privately rented cottage while they were looking for somewhere more permanent. From the outside the cottage looked perfect. It had been rented out for years as a holiday let and there were no known problems.

 Thirza’s post-mortem showed that she had been electrocuted. A further investigation showed that the wiring of the whole house was a complete mess and that she had died after an electric current made its way through the bath taps and into the water. Thirza and her family had noticed that the taps seemed ‘tingly’ but no one ever thought that this could happen.

 “My daughter died because she was allowed to move into a house where the electrics and wiring had not been checked in years as her landlord was under no legal obligation to do so. If the electrics had been checked then they would have immediately been found to be unsafe. And Thirza would still be with us today.”

 “Later, I was horrified to learn that while landlords have to provide an annual gas safety certificate for properties that they rent out, there is no such law for electricity in private rented properties. Electricity kills, it’s as simple as that. And yet there is no law in place to protect tenants like my daughter.”

 It’s hard to believe that private landlords are not currently required to carry out electrical safety checks on their properties. At Shelter we know that private rented properties can pose a real risk to their tenants. In fact, the private rented sector has the highest percentage of homes judged to have a ‘significantly higher than average fire risk’ and 11% of tenants have actually seen electrical faults in their homes.

A simple change to the law would require private landlords to carry out electrical safety checks protecting renters from life threatening electrical hazards in the home.

That’s why Shelter and British Gas support Electrical Safety First’s bid to use the Housing and Planning Bill 2015 to introduce mandatory five-yearly electrical safety checks.

And we’re not alone in calling for this simple improvement. After all, who wouldn’t support a lifesaving change to the law?

 Many responsible landlords are already carry out these lifesaving checks. In fact 45% of landlords we surveyed are already carrying out safety checks on their properties, with a further 6% saying they were being carried out on some of their properties.

Responsible landlords won’t be affected by this law, as they’re already doing the right thing. The landlords who will be affected are those who don’t carry out these lifesaving checks.

That’s why the majority of landlords support this legislation; more than half are in favour.  Support amongst those landlords who are already carrying out these checks is even stronger, at 71%.

We know MPs want the law changed too: in a recent survey, the vast majority of MPs from across all parties agreed that mandatory 5 yearly electrical safety checks are necessary in the private rented sector.

One simple change to the law could help prevent people from being injured or dying because of undetected electrical safety hazards.

We’ve published a briefing for MPs here, setting out the facts and calling on them to make this simple, life-saving change to the law.

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2 Comments
  1. “Shelter and British Gas support Electrical Safety First’s bid”

    Can Shelter explain why you are pairing with British Gas?

    British Gas want to introduce smart meters, so they can charge peak rates for energy in particul in the evening and morning when people are using them.

    Properties have mould, because tenants are worried out turning on the gas.

    I have years of problems with the energy companies, British Gas is the worst and they have us with no gas in the middle of winter.

    Their boiler cover sucks!

    The only reason British Gas is supporting Shelter’s electricity check, is so they can get more business from these checks. I don’t have a problem with compulsory electric checks, however, the law was changed some years ago where only qualified electricians can carry out electrical work. Many of the problems are due to home owners doing DIY electric works.

    When I do property inspections, I am shocked a how some tenants double up two 5 way extension leads. They will also add high power irons and electric heaters (even though the gas boiler is cheaper to run!). We do provide enough sockets.

    I try to want tenants from buying electrical goods on the Internet, especially if has not passed regulation. People only have to look at the number of product recalls on Government web sites even from reputable stores.

  2. There is a lack of clarity in the article. Gas checks are required for both private and social landlords. Now electrical checks are required by neither. The proposal is that electrical checks would be required by private landlords but not by social landlords. Have I got this right?

    “And we’re not alone in calling for this simple improvement. After all, who wouldn’t support a lifesaving change to the law?”

    Well it appears that you wouldn’t as regards to social tenants. A matter on which I profoundly disagree with Shelter’s policies is that of providing a lower standard of safety to tenants of social landlords that to those of private landlords.

    Any explanation would be welcome, including that I have misunderstood the proposals.

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