Landlords in England could be required by law to carry out electrical safety checks on the privately-rented properties they own, depending on the outcome of a current Government review.

In its latest White Paper on Housing – ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ – the Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed it is currently working with industry experts to consider whether action should be taken to mandate electrical safety checks for rented properties.

Legal obligations for landlords

Five-year mandatory checks are already in place in Scotland and are due to be introduced in Wales, but there is no current legal requirement on landlords in England to ensure electrical installations in their properties are periodically inspected.

However, change could be on the horizon. As well as the White Paper, the Housing and Planning Act 2016 already enables the Government to bring forward such measures.

Clause 122 of the act says the Secretary of State ‘may by regulations impose duties on a private landlord of residential premises in England for the purposes of ensuring that electrical safety standards are met during any period when the premises are occupied under tenancy’.

It further states that this may require the landlord to ensure that a qualified person has carried out appropriate checks and provided a certificate confirming standards have been met.

The news has been welcomed by Midlands-based EICR Testing, which is already working with landlords to carry out electrical safety checks of their rented properties.

EICR reports for landlords

An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) provides landlords with documented proof that electrical installations have been checked.

EICR Testing director, Jeff Longley, said: “It’s great news that the Government is taking this issue seriously. We already carry out EICRs for landlords who want to protect their tenants – and themselves – from any dangerous electrical issues. It’s sensible practice among good landlords and is already a legal requirement in Scotland.

“Part of this new White Paper is seeking to protect tenants from what it describes as ‘rogue landlords’ by driving up safety and standards in the private rented sector. We believe EICRs are a no-brainer. With regular checking, landlords can prove they have taken reasonable steps to ensure their properties are safe. This will probably save money – and in the most extreme cases, lives – in the long term.”

According to Government research contained in the White Paper, over four million households now rent their home from a private landlord – nearly twice as many as 10 years ago. A total of 28% of those homes are considered ‘non-decent’.

Speaking in response to the White Paper, Emma Drackford of the campaigning charity Electrical Safety First, said: “With a higher proportion of households entering the private rented sector, we strongly argue the need to provide regular electrical safety checks for all tenants throughout England. We know that electrical hazards pose a very real threat to tenants; for example, reports from London Fire Brigade show that electrical fires as a proportion are increasing in the capital.

“We have long called for mandatory electrical safety checks to be conducted within a maximum five-year period. This position has been a shared one amongst the stakeholder community, and in line with what has been introduced in Scotland and those now being pursued in Wales. Without regular mandatory checks, we believe that fires caused by electricity in the private rented sector the issue will only get worse, not improve.”

The Government is expected to reveal its next steps on the issue in the near future.