Rise in Private Tenants may Expose More People to Risk of Electric Shock and Fire

ESC encourages download of its free Smartphone safety app, to help tenants protect themselves from lethal electrical shock or fire

The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) believes many more people may become exposed to risk of potentially lethal electric accidents and fires in the home if the UK experiences a ‘steep’ and long term rise in the number of people living in private rented accommodation in the UK, which was forecast in a recent report from Shelter and the Resolution Foundation.

Research from the ESC in February found that misunderstandings between landlords and tenants over responsibilities for safety are already exposing millions of tenants to life-threatening electrical dangers. It believes a significant increase in the number of private tenants may further compromise safety and is reissuing its guidance for tenants and landlords, including details of how to download its free smartphone safety app, allowing anyone to carry out a simple electrical safety check of their home.

Electricity kills at least one person every week in the home and almost 1,000 are seriously injured every day. Electricity causes around 20,000[i] fires a year - almost half of all accidental UK house fires. The ESC has found that of all the people receiving an electric shock[ii], private tenants are disproportionately affected: with 16% of the UK population living in private rented properties[iii], they account for 20% of UK adults receiving an electric shock.

More than one fifth of all private tenants (21%) already report concerns with the electrical safety in their home and three quarters of private tenants (75%) can’t recall discussing electrical safety with their landlord[iv].

The ESC research highlighted that many landlords and tenants are simply confused over their responsibilities to safety and are not discussing the vital issue. By law, landlords must ensure electrical installations and wiring are maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy[v]. And tenants should feel obliged to flag electrical problems as soon as they appear, as well as maintain any electrical items they bring into the house.

The ESC is reminding landlords of its simple safety guidance – available free www.esc.org.uk/landlords. Tenants should also download the ESC’s free Home Electrical Safety Checks Smartphone app, which allows anyone to do a quick visual check to ensure a property is electrically safe. The app highlights potential dangers in each room and explains how to resolve simple problems or where they should be flagged to an electrician, or landlord. The app is available for iPhone or Android.

Anneke Rousseau, Head of Communications, ESC, said: “It is important that all landlords understand their obligations and ensure the safety of their tenants. Part of the confusion may arise from the fact that landlords are legally responsible for an annual gas safety check but it is not a legal requirement for electrical safety. And so we are encouraging landlords and tenants to start talking more openly with each other about this vital safety issue.”

Download the ESC's 'Home Electrical Safety Check' smartphone app
Our free smartphone app makes it easy for you to carry out a fast and effective review of your properties and fulfil your responsibility for tenant safety.  Visit the Android Market or App Store and search for ‘Home Electrical Safety Check’.

[i] CLG fire statistics 2007
[ii] 2.5 million people receive a mains voltage electric shock every year (MORI 2011)
[iii] English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Housing Surveys
[iv] When asked ‘Thinking again about your last privately rented accommodation to what extent did you ever discuss electrical safety with your landlord for this property when you moved in?’, 56% of renters answered ‘Electrical safety was not discussed’ and a further 19% answered ‘Don’t know / can’t remember’.
[v] The Landlords and Tenants Act 1985. Further guidance in the Housing and Tenants Act 2004

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