Regulation

From A Spark To A Flame

David Rutland
Written by David Rutland

Mandatory electrical tests for PRS properties will be pointless and unfair

No landlord wants their tenants to die in a house fire. Well, they might, but we would imagine most landlords would prefer troublesome tenants moved out of the rented property before combusting.

In the year ending March 2018, the Fire and Rescue Service was called out to 167,150 fire incidents. There were 334 fatalities, and more than 7,000 injuries. More than 30,000 of these fires were in dwellings.

Of all fire related deaths, electrical appliances and distribution were responsible almost 40%. Oh gosh.

It’s horrific, and other than certain dentists of our acquaintance, not a fate we would wish on anybody.

Which is why it makes sense that the government will soon be introducing mandatory electrical inspections on all rented properties.

The figures are a little misleading thanks to the Grenfell Tower inferno of June 2017, in which 72 people were killed.

The fire itself was started by a malfunctioning fridge freezer, and the most important thing about it is that the appliance was not provided by the landlord or the management company. It was bought new, by Behailu Kebede, the tenant in flat 16.

In normal years without mass tragedies, the most common ignition source in fire related deaths is what the FRS refers to as ‘smokers materials.’

Electrical fires are usually caused by cookers, toasters, and microwaves.

What will this new, presumably pricey, electrical safety test entail? The details have not been announced, but the government press release states that guidance will be “broadly in line with existing regulations in Scotland.”

For reference, the current regulations in Scotland require landlords to have their properties inspected for electrical safety every five years and before a tenancy starts.

The process takes two to three hours, and involves inspecting and testing

Any installations in the property for the supply of electricity

Electrical fixtures and fittings

Any appliances provided by the landlord under the tenancy.

Take another look at that list. As a landlord, you may or may not supply the cooker, but do you supply the toaster? The kettle? The microwave? If you didn’t, then these tests won’t make a blind bit of difference to the likelihood of a fire. They wouldn’t have made a difference in preventing the Grenfell disaster either.

The only way landlords are likely to get any value from these mandatory tests is if they supply all of the electrical appliances in the property, and forbid the tenant from plugging in any of their own stuff.

But as with clauses which prevent tenants from smoking inside their home, such rules are practically unenforceable.

There are a number of companies already providing electrical installation condition reports for landlords in England and Wales, and the average cost is £160 per property. We noted that the reports do not include plugged in appliances such as kettles, toasters, and fridges.

Which brings us back around to the item which sparked the fire at Grenfell Tower.

Even if the new rules do prove effective in saving lives, they wouldn’t have helped at Grenfell, even if Mr Kebede’s fridge freezer had been provided by the landlord.

Grenfell tower is owned by Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council. The mandatory electrical inspections will apply only to the private rental sector.

Image credit: Katong Kate

About the author

David Rutland

David Rutland

With a decades long career as a professional writer, David Rutland has worked as a journalist on local, national, and international newspapers, before embarking as a career as a freelancer.

He has ghostwritten several books, as well as producing travel guides, manuals, humour articles, and more internet blogs than you can shake a stick at.

David maintains offices in East London, but spends most of his time in a shed near Liverpool, where he writes, as well as developing apps for Android.

What people say about him:

Arrogant and abrasive - Alan Davis, Editor in Chief North Wales News Group

An absolute liability - Matt Simms, Editor, Vale advertiser

Are you sure this won't get us all arrested? - Mohana Prabhakar, Editor in Chief, Apex News Group

Go and have a shave. You're all prickly - Mrs Donna Rutland.

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