You might not know it, but every year around 70 people are killed and a staggering 350,000 people are injured through contact with electricity. In 2013-14 there were 49 deaths from electrical fires in the home.
Alarming, isn’t it?
Late yesterday, the Government published a new clause that will introduce mandatory electrical safety checks for privately rented properties, helping to prevent deaths and injuries caused by electrical faults.
Put simply, they tabled a life-saving amendment.
Shelter, British Gas and Electrical Safety First have long been campaigning for this simple change to the law. In 2014, we released this joint report outlining why these important checks were needed and calling on the government to introduce them.
So why are the checks needed?
Safety remains a challenge in the private rented sector and 11% of tenants have seen electrical faults in their homes. Crucially, this amendment is needed because people have needlessly died.
In my last blog on electrical safety, I told the harrowing story of Thirza, who sadly died because of unsafe electrics in her home. Thirza was found dead in the bath by her five year old daughter. An investigation showed that the wiring of the house was an absolute mess and that she had died after an electric current made its way through the bath taps and into the water. In the words of her mother Jane:
‘…the electrics and wiring had not been checked for 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.’
Deaths like this should not happen.
This amendment should help stop horror stories like these from occurring. That is why it is so crucial, and so welcome by the sector.
What does this mean?
On a practical level, it means landlords will be legally required to ensure the properties they let are free from electrical faults. The clause also allows local authorities to take action to deal with landlords who do not comply, including fines and carrying out works themselves. This is crucial – as it means protection for tenants in the few cases where a rogue landlord doesn’t carry out the checks.
These simple changes are a striking signal from the Government that they are serious about tackling rogue landlords and poor conditions – especially those responsible for the one-in-six private rented homes, which contain a hazard that is a risk to health and safety.
This is all about creating safe and decent homes in the private rented sector, something that is becoming ever more important as more and more families rent. The Government are increasingly recognising this and Shelter will continue to highlight the many other areas where change is still needed.
So what next?
This amendment will be debated during the Report stage in the House of Lords, which is due to start next week. The Bill will then go back to the House of Commons for further debate. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this to ensure that it becomes law.
We’ve previously published a briefing here, which sets out the facts. We strongly recommend that Peers and MPs vote to keep this life-saving amendment.