THE BLOG

We Must Change the Law to Better Protect Tenants

03/07/2014 15:20 BST | Updated 01/09/2014 10:59 BST

Homes in the private rented sector in England are worse than in any other, with a third of properties failing to meet basic standards and a sixth of renters, or 1.2 million adults, reporting problems with electricity in the last year.

These were some of the shocking findings in a major report that Electrical Safety First launched with Shelter at the House of Lords. The report 'Home Improvement: Tackling Poor Electrical Safety in the Private Rented Sector' reveals that current regulations are not fit for purpose: there is no legal requirement for landlords to ensure that electrics are safe before renting out a property or to check the wiring and any electrical appliances they have provided on a regular basis. This is particularly concerning given that there is a growing number of 'accidental' landlords - renting out properties either because they inherited or could not sell.

As dodgy wiring and poor electrics are often unseen, lying uncovered until a serious accident occurs, a lack of legislation means that an unacceptable number of properties are let out in a potentially deadly state. Every year 70 people die from electrical accidents and 350,000 people are seriously injured. Our research suggests that private renters are more likely to be affected.

At the launch of our report, we heard from Jane Andain, a woman who knows too well the consequences of a lack of regulation. Jane's daughter, Thirza Whittall, was electrocuted six years ago as the result of poor electrics in the house she was renting. Thirza had just moved to Cornwall with her family and a few months later was found dead in the bath after electric current had made its way through to the metal bath taps. This could have been avoided if the property had been checked by the landlord.

Jane has bravely shared her story with us and you can watch her short film here. It is incredibly powerful. I would urge you all to watch it and share it. Jane is now supporting our campaign to ask the government to introduce legislation that means this will not happen to other families. Our report concludes that the easiest and most efficient way to do this is to introduce mandatory five yearly checks, by a competent person, of the electrical wiring and appliances.

Mandatory five yearly checks are the only way to ensure that all private rented sector properties are safe. This change in law would be very easy to implement as the primary legislation already exists and our research shows that the majority of MPs would support a change in law. Electrical inspections by a competent person can cost as little as £100, which is less than £2 a month or 6p a day over a five year period. This is an incredibly small price to pay to keep people safe and we want to see the government take action.

We want to change the law and we hope you will support our campaign. Visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/renting to hear more. Landlords and tenants can also learn more about electrical safety and current legislation and can download advice and toolkits from Electrical Safety First and Shelter, as well download the Home Electrical Safety Check smartphone app which allows users to identify and flag electrical dangers in their home. Until we change the law, we want landlords and tenants to open the dialogue on electrical safety and work together to improve conditions.