Environment, Safety and Standards Opinion Property Management

Blog: Electrical safety in your rental home

Ian Halton
Written by Ian Halton

Ian Halton of the National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT) shares details of the work the trade body has been doing to help landlords keep their homes safe.  Ian will be speaking at our Future Renting conference in London in 13th September, delivering the session ‘Safety first? Gas, electrical and fire safety. Book your ticket here 

The issue of electrical safety is high up on the Government agenda currently, with consultations in both England and Wales looking into tightening the regulations which surround the inspection and testing of electrical installations in Privately Rented properties.

The Private Rented Sector is continuing to expand: having doubled in size over the past ten years, it is expected to grow by a further 24% by 2021, meaning that one in four people will be renting their properties.

These figures mean that any changes to legislation will directly affect an increasing number of tenants and landlords.

But for any policies to succeed, people need to be kept informed of the guidelines – and the occasionally devastating consequences that can come from not following them.

Labour of love

Over the past few years, spreading the message of electrical safety, and sharing the value of using NAPIT members to inspect and carry out work on properties, has been a real labour of love for me.

A typical week could take me from a landlord forum in Cornwall to a training session in the North of England, with plenty in between.

Apart from long-distance lorry drivers or touring rock bands, I’m not sure anybody has seen the inside of as many motorway service stations as I have in recent years.

But by doing this, I’ve spoken to over 3,000 landlords at over 70 events since the start of 2017.

While most landlords do comply with regulations and provide safe accommodation for their tenants, being able to show them real-world examples of some of the worst practice out there can only help to keep them on their toes.

Landlords who don’t meet the legislative requirements often aren’t intentionally providing sub-standard accommodation, but there can be a tendency for people to cut corners with electrics that they would never dream of doing with gas.

Risks

These really aren’t risks worth taking – the latest figures showed that almost 3,000 accidental fires were caused in England by electrical distribution (wiring, cabling and plugs) in 2015/16, leading to 379 injuries or fatalities that could have been avoided.

One of the most valuable things about getting out to meet landlords is that they can ask me questions about the electrical safety of their property that they may be reluctant to air publicly.

By addressing their concerns, hopefully we will see these numbers fall in the years to come.

We hope that legislation will soon reflect just how serious electrical safety is, and strongly feel that bringing in mandatory Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICRs) to be carried out every five years will help to deliver results.

These reports should be compiled by competent, registered electrical inspectors (such as those on our Electrical Inspector Scheme) who are assessed as competent to undertake inspections.

I still see examples of EICRs that have been carried out by non-registered electricians, and they’re often incomplete, inaccurate or full of errors.

Having a registered inspector fill in the report means that no resident will begin a tenancy unsure of whether or not the electrics in their property are actually safe.

Enforcement

It’s also important to make sure those who have powers of enforcement over private landlords – and who may have their own housing stock – are fully educated about the electrical dangers they need to be able to spot.

My training sessions for local authorities help to make sure this is the case, and I have trained more than 500 representatives from over 70 local authorities in the past 18 months.

The feedback I receive from attendees shows the message is being heard, and makes crunching the miles up and down the country worthwhile.

95% of attendees who’ve filled in our survey say they have a better understanding of the competency requirements and dangers of electrical installations after completing a training session, while 94% feel they are left with a better understanding of how EICRs compiled by a registered competent electrician give an overview of the electrical safety of a property.

They’ve even been known to be complimentary about the bloke giving the training!

Tide is turning

The tide is starting to turn in favour of introducing more electrical safety legislation in Private Rented Sector properties, with recent consultations on the issue in England and Wales following the Scottish Government’s decision to make it compulsory for PRS properties to have an EICR every five years in 2015.

While nobody wants to see the cost and hassle that unnecessary legislation brings, in these cases there is surely too high a price to pay if electrics are left in a poor condition.

Complying with regulations can be a daunting prospect for landlords, but free help is available and I promote the Home Safety Guidance documents available for download at www.homesafetyguidance.co.uk/download.

They allow landlords without electrical training to be able to spot potentially dangerous electrical faults, and understand exactly what they need to do to comply with the law.

My work with local authorities and landlords is all about taking the potentially dry, technically complex subject of electrical safety and bringing it to life off the page.

While there will be many more miles to travel, and more roadside hotels and service stations to visit, it’s all made worthwhile when people say that my presentation has compelled them to go and check the safety of their properties.

By making more people become aware of the dangers of electrical installations, and letting them know of the registered competent electricians in their area that can help them, NAPIT can make a tangible difference to the safety of tenants in this country.

More information

The RLA has a landlords’ guide to electrical safety on its website, with NAPIT providing trainers for the RLA’s electrical safety training course.

To read the RLA’s official response to the Government’s latest consultation on electrical safety click here.

 

About the author

Ian Halton

Ian Halton

2 Comments

  • “Why is it that the British love to gold plate their regulations?” I am paraphrasing the Right Hon William Hague here when he commented on legislation from Europe. But here we are again with new strictures relating to electrics and immediately the RLA is instructing landlords what they MUST DO!. And in minutiae.
    There never seems to be anyone at the RLA arguing the issues from the landlord’s side. For example, it could be pointed out that the reason why the requirements for gas installations are so much more demanding than for electricity is because gas is a much more dangerous source of energy. There have been numerous and spectacular instances where gas explosions have taken life.
    On the other hand electricity is relatively benign, Yes people also die, but over the last few decades the safety of our domestic installations have improved tremendously as consumers have introduced innovations like RCBO protection of circuits and earthed equipotential bonding.
    In short this new move is just a knee jerk reaction that is wholly unmerited. The statistics bear this out. What it really is, is just another opportunity for the government to yet again bash the landlords, and wouldn’t it be nice if landlords had an organisation that had enough backbone to stand up and say that

    • Good morning, the RLA did in fact object to mandatory 5-year testing, and in our response to the consultation on the issue proposed a risk based frequency of testing https://news.rla.org.uk/electrical-safety-legislation-already-exists-why-do-we-need-more/
      However the Government has opted to introduce five-year testing so yes landlords must comply with the law. We robustly campaign on behalf of private landlords – please feel free to check out our campaigns pages to verify this. However we will not always be successful. We have a duty to inform landlords of changes to legislation, which is what we are doing here. We will let you know more when the Government announces an implementation date.

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