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Landlords risking lives and livelihoods by ignoring electrical safety

Landlords are exposing millions of tenants to dangers and could face huge fines.

  • 1.7 million private renters report electrical faults that are ignored or acted on too late
  • Private tenants more likely to be affected by electrical accidents and fires
  • Landlord fines have increased to £20,000 but many don’t know fines exist at all
  • The Electrical Safety Council calls for landlord action to protect safety of tenants

A new study by the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) finds landlords are exposing themselves to significant financial risks, from fines and invalidated insurance, through not acting on their electrical safety obligations. Ignoring their responsibilities means landlords are also putting millions of UK private tenants at risk of serious accident or fire.
The ESC found 1.7 million private renters[i] have reported electrical concerns that were either ignored by their landlord or acted on too slowly, and 1.3 million renters[ii] are currently waiting for electrical issues to be resolved. No wonder that more than 2 million private tenants[iii] have expressed concern about the electrical safety of their home.
The ESC study hoped to gauge landlord’s awareness of the fact fines for failing to maintain adequate electrical safety have risen from £5,000 to £20,000, but instead found a fifth[iv] - around 300,000 private landlords - still believed there were no fines at all. Added to this, many landlords did 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[v] than home owners and may be up to seven times more likely to experience a house fire[vi]. The ESC is concerned that unless landlords take action, the situation will further deteriorate.
The problem arises from a lack of understanding over who is responsible for the electrical safety of a private rented property. Almost half of all landlords and tenants[vii] admitted they had no idea who was responsible for electrical safety and as a result crucial aspects are ignored.
By law, landlords must ensure electrical installations and wiring are maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy[viii]. 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:
Phil Buckle, Director General of the Electrical Safety Council, said: “We’ve found that many landlords are ignorant of their responsibilities. In the long term, we’d like to see tighter guidelines for landlords on electrical safety but with the number of non-professional landlords increasing every day, we also need to address this now. We need all landlords to understand that they are not only putting people’s lives at risk, but they could also face serious financial loss through fines or invalidated insurance if they don’t act on their existing obligations.”
Tenants can help themselves by maintaining electrical items they bring into the house and by reporting hazards to their landlord immediately. The ESC also advises that they ask the landlord for evidence that electrical safety checks have been conducted or approved by a registered electrician, before moving in. Whilst no legislation exists for tenant responsibilities relating to electrical safety, if they are complacent to the issues then it could result in a serious accident.
The ESC has produced a free guide for landlords on their electrical safety responsibilities, along with an online resource outlining recommended actions for landlords and tenants, to give clarity over responsibilities – both are available at A key recommendation is to 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.
Kay Boycott, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Communications at Shelter, said: “With more and more people now renting their homes, it’s more important than ever that landlords take their responsibility for electrical safety seriously. Most do the right thing, but at Shelter we still hear from families across the country who are living with the knowledge that an electrical fault in their home is putting their safety at risk. Anyone worried about electrical safety in their home can get advice at”

[i] 17% of current tenants agreed with the statement ‘I reported concerns with the state of the electrical safety of the property and this was either not addressed or response was too slow’. The ESC estimates there are approvimately 9.74 million private tenants in the UK - this figure is based on ONS 2011 Census data for number of PRS households, combined with data on average household size and TGI statistical analysis.[ii] 13% of current renters agree with the statement ‘I am currently awaiting electrical issues to be resolved in my property’.[iii] 22% of renters agreed with the statement ‘I have been concerned about the electrical safety of the property I was living in’.[iv] 21% of landlords did not agree with the statement ‘Failure by a landlord to ensure electrical safety is a criminal offence and can lead to fines’. There are approximately 1.5 million landlords in the UK. The majority of private sector landlords (83%) are non-professional, looking after just one property.[v] With 16% of the UK population living in private rented properties, they account for 20% of UK adults receiving an electric shock. (ESC research, February 2012).[vi] Figure estimated by the Chief Fire Officers Association.[vii] 40% of landlords and 44% of tenants agreed with the statement ‘I do not know who is responsible (whether it is the landlord or tenant) for all elements of electrical safety in a rented home’.[viii] For a small proportion of Private Rented Sector (PRS) properties, classed as Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) landlords are legally required to get an electrical safety inspections done every five years. In the UK there are around 4.7 million PRS properties, of which an estimated 11% are classified as HMOs. Tougher legislation exists for gas safety – landlords must have appliances and installations checked on an annual basis.


 tenancy safety
 home safety
 electrical safety

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