Environment, Safety and Standards

Electrical safety legislation already exists – why do we need more?

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

The RLA has told the Government there is no need for new rules on electrical safety.

In its official response to the Government’s consultation on the issue, the RLA makes the point that there is an existing statutory requirement for the landlord to keep electrical installations in good repair and proper working order – there is no need for new laws.

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System’s (HHSRS) Operating Guidance shows that the average risk to tenants from dangerous electrics is very low – less than half of the risk from noise and significantly less than the impact of overcrowding, dampness and the risk from radon.

The consultation follows the publication of a report by the Electrical Safety Standards Working Group in November.

The working group recommended that mandatory electrical installation checks should take place at least every five years.

However, the RLA believes a five-yearly test regime is not appropriate for single occupancy properties and small blocks of flats, particularly if electrical safety features are present, such as PVC wiring and RCDs.

It also opposes suggestions that inspections should be at inspectors’ discretion.

This opinion is echoed by the Health and Safety Executive. The national regulator is also strongly against these inspectors having discretion, not least because of their financial interest in more regular periods.

In some areas of London where discretion has been included in licensing conditions, annual inspections have become the norm.

The RLA has technical concerns regarding Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICR) and also asked for clarity regarding ‘visual checks’.

However, it does agree with the working group that a scheme recognising competent and qualified electrical inspectors and testers should be introduced to eliminate any rogue contractors – and that any changes should be phased in.

The RLA already recommends members carry out checks on electrical appliances that they supply at the change of each tenancy – in line with the recommendationsin the report.

To read the response in full click here.

The RLA also has a guide outlining landlords’ responsibilities when it comes to electrical safety.

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Communications Manager for the RLA and Editor of RPI magazine. With 16 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and editorial content for our media partners.

She issues press releases promoting the work of the RLA and its policies and campaigns to the regional and national media and works alongside the marketing team on the association’s social media channels to build support for the RLA and its work.

3 Comments

  • Electrical work nowadays has become so expensive since the introduction of Part P. A periodic inspection report alone can cost several hundred pounds and that’s before any work has been done. A relatively modern electrical installation with RCDs should not have to have a periodic inspection report every five years but let’s say some sort of less expensive certificate of compliance thus cutting down on red tape and costs.

    Tenants can change every six months so any protracted electrical inspection for every change of tenancy would prove to be inordinately expensive. There is already enough pressure on landlords to get things right and it’s about right now without any further intervention from what is threatening to be a Nanny State!

    • Yes, you are right that if testing on every change of tenant could get expensive if tenancies are short. But I need to correct you one one point, that of “Part P”.
      Being pedantic, “Part P” is very short and common-sense – all it says is that electrical installation should be designed, installed, and maintained so as to be safe. Really, that is all it says !
      It gets confused with Building Regulations which in 2005 were changed to make significant amounts of electrical work notifiable. If using a member of one of the approved schemes (eg NICEIC) there was virtually no change in cost as it only costs them something like £8-£12 to notify their work directly. Unfortunately, like many other trades, there are plenty of charlatans who were quick to jump on the bandwagon and talk up the issue with an eye to more income. In practice, a lot of routine work was (contrary to what the charlatans were telling people) non-notifiable and hence costs should not have changed at all.
      In 2013 the Building Regs were relaxed substantially because I think the authorities had recognised that the restrictions were causing more problems (eg putting people off having required works done) than they solved. Now there are ONLY THREE classes of electrical work that are notifiable : Installation (which would include replacement) of a Consumer Unit, addition of a new circuit (does NOT include adding to an existing circuit, eg adding sockets), and work within the zones of a bathroom. Nothing else is notifiable – and there should be no excuse for hiking charges “because Part P” and if someone uses that line on you then that should tell you something about their integrity.

      However, back to the original subject …
      I have “mixed feelings” about the suggestion to introduce mandatory periodic testing. Personally my 2 properties are in good condition and (other than having plastic cases which are now “not to current standards”) are well above the requirements – I put in new consumer units a few years ago and made them “all RCBO” (separate RCD for every circuit). Having seen the state of some places family members have been renting, I can’t help thinking that there is room for improvement (although they have been basically safe) – I hate to think what some properties at “the bottom of the market” are like.

      I certainly do not think a new scheme is required – all that will do is increase costs for everyone. There are already schemes to cover this, typically requiring appropriate C&G qualifications for membership. If there is an argument that the current schemes aren’t adequate, then that’s also an argument that the current schemes are not fit for purpose of overseeing electrical works (which, given that they are primarily trade bodies, I do have some agreement with).
      The 2013 Building Regs introduced the idea of an “approved” third party inspector. As far as I know, no electricians have signed up to this as they simply don’t see any business case for inspecting other people’s work. And as far as I know, no-one else has signed up either – why bother when the knowledge/skills needed to to it properly are such that you might as well just get qualified as an electrician so you can charge for doing the work rather than just looking at others’ work.

  • Having completed thousands of eicr’s I can tell you new installations are not without faults. At least these would be found after a mandatory 5 year check.
    How dangerous these faults are us open to debate and guidance should should be given rather than the electrician being given the chance to over code faults.
    It is also quite common for tenants to carry out dangerous worm like adding wiring or changing fittings. Poor workmanship is usually the biggest.

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