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Electrical Safety First to focus on NI’s Private Rented Sector

Phil Buckle Director generalElectrical Safety First is a campaigning charity dedicated to preventing deaths, injuries and damage caused by electricity. Here, Phil Buckle, Director General of the Charity, explains why it is focusing on Northern Ireland’s Private Rented Sector (PRS).

Following our success in improving electrical safety for private tenants in Scotland, we are now fighting to get the same protection for those in Northern Ireland.

Government statistics show that homes in Northern Ireland are at a high risk from fires of an electrical origin. In 2013-14, electrical-related fires accounted for over 65% of all accidental fires . And, as many of these occur within the home, safety in dwellings - especially in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) - is one of the Charity’s key concerns.

Private tenants are more at risk of electric shock or fire 

The PRS in Northern Ireland is expanding at an unprecedented rate. According to the NI Family Resources Survey 12/13, it now makes up almost 20% of the housing landscape. But independent research (conducted by Ipsos MORI) indicates that private tenants are more at risk of electric shock or fire than owner-occupiers.  And, as almost half (48%) of all electrical fires are caused by the type of appliance routinely provided by landlords - such as dishwashers, cookers and fridge/freezers – safety concerns are growing. These have also been enhanced by increasing numbers of ‘accidental landlords’ – often people who let out an inherited house, or need to rent out their own, due to financial constraints.

Our UK-wide research found that 29% of landlords and 40% of tenants were unaware of who was responsible for the electrical safety of any appliances supplied with a tenancy . And 1.7 million private tenants have reported electrical concerns that were either ignored by their landlord or acted on too slowly .

Few legal requirements around checking electrical installations

While landlords are legally required to have gas installations and appliances in their rented properties checked each year, the regulations around electricity are much more ambiguous. So we are calling for mandatory, five yearly checks of the electrical installations, by a suitably competent person, of all PRS properties (along with any electrical appliances supplied), with visual checks undertaken at change of tenancy. We also want to see residual current devices, which help prevent electric shocks, to be installed in all privately rented homes.

We successfully pushed for these requirements to be included in the recent Scottish Housing Bill and now, with the Department for Social Development's forthcoming review of the PRS, the Northern Ireland Executive has a vital opportunity to enhance electrical safety and protect both landlords’ property and tenants’ safety.

Tools for landlords and tenants

Electrical Safety First has created various tools to help both landlords and tenants. These include

Tagged In

Fitness, Private Tenancies, Opinion

This article was written on 26 February 2015. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.