Recently, fines for failing to maintain adequate electrical safety have risen from £5,000 to £20,000. But not only are landlords unaware of this, one fifth (300,000) believe there are no penalty fines at all. In addition, many landlords do not know their insurance may be invalidated if they fail to follow their obligations.
The situation is a real concern as electrical accidents cause more than 350,000 serious injuries each year and cause more than half of all accidental house fires. However, tenants are most at risk – they are more likely to experience a serious electric shock than home owners and may be up to seven times more likely to experience a house fire. The ESC is concerned that unless landlords take action, the situation will further deteriorate.
By law, landlords must ensure electrical installations and wiring are maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy. The ESC recommends landlords should have electrical appliances and installations checked at least every five years by a registered electrician, along with carrying out regular visual checks themselves. Anyone can find a local registered electrician by visiting the Electrical Safety Register: electricalsafetyregister.com.
The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) has also spoken out about fire safety. They warn:
- 400 people a year die in accidental house fires
- Not having a smoke alarm doubles your risk of death
- Faulty electrics cause around 7,000 house fires a year
- Candles cause more than 5 fires a day.
Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC comments: “Landlords have a duty of care to provide a safe property and comply with all regulations. We have seen numerous breaches of fire regulations, the most common being escape routes and fire exits blocked with furniture or other items. What’s more, we are still seeing properties which are not adequately fitted with smoke alarms. In newer properties it is requirement to have a hard wired smoke detector but in older properties this is not the case. It is however good practice and recommended by the fire service that smoke detectors are installed in every property. These can be bought very cheaply from your local DIY store and are simple to install – a worthwhile investment which could save lives.
“We are still seeing properties which are not adequately fitted with smoke alarms.”
“Landlords, agents and tenants all need to take more responsibility for fire safety, as lives are at risk. It is imperative that landlords and agents visit their properties regularly to check their property has no fire hazards and they are meeting all the fire regulations. Agents and landlords should also be warning tenants about the fire risks. The sad fact is that people living in rented or shared accommodation are seven times more likely to have a fire.”
AIIC has put together some guidelines for landlords and letting agents:
- Fit battery (or mains) operated smoke alarms that conform to the latest BS standards and fit them in the circulation spaces, i.e. stairways and corridors of your properties and on every floor. Show your tenants how to test them, and change the batteries between tenancies. At the start of the tenancy check that the battery works and demonstrate to the tenant that the alarm works
- Landlords of Houses in Multiple Occupation are required to ensure that adequate fire precautions are provided and maintained, to include providing fire extinguishers and blanket
- Warn tenants not to overload sockets or use multiple adaptors.
- Don’t attempt any repairs to the electrical wiring or appliances yourself – use a qualified electrician
- Check that sockets, switches and light fittings are in good condition with no signs of damage such as cracking or burn marks. Also check that leads and flexible cables on appliances aren’t damaged or frayed
- Any electrical appliances provided by the agent or landlord should have up to date Portable Appliance Test (PAT) stickers on them (although not a legal requirement it is recommended by the ESC). Unlike gas appliances there is no legal requirement to have an annual safety check, and The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) says agents and landlords should have a Periodic Inspection Reports (PIR) carried out by a registered electrician at least every five years, or on change of tenancy.
- Check to see if the fuse box has RCD protection. This is a life-saving device that protects against electric shock and reduces the risk of electrical fires. Replace old electrics eg fuse boxes with a wooden back; cables coated with black rubber, lead or fabric; old, round pin sockets, light switches and sockets mounted in skirting boards; and light switches mounted on bathroom walls.
- All landlords are required to ensure that all gas appliances and flues are safe. This rule aims to avoid the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. An annual Gas Safety check must be made and tenants must be provided with an appropriate Gas Safety record & the landlord must keep Gas Safety records for a minimum of 2 years.
- All upholstered furnishings provided in a rented property must be fire resistant. Fire resistant furniture carries a symbol that confirms that it is fire resistant. All furniture must have a permanent label clearly showing that they are fire resistant.
The AIIC is committed to excellence and professionalism in the property inventory process and works hard to ensure that all landlords, tenants and letting agents understand the importance and benefits of professionally completed property inventories.
For further information on AIIC, please visit theaiic.co.uk