The Housing and Planning Bill, following amendments proposed by Electrical Safety First, will take the first steps towards mandatory electrical safety checks. This follows similar legislation in Scotland and that proposed for Wales.
Full details have yet to emerge after the publication of the Act, but it is likely that five-yearly safety checks, by a competent person, of the electrical installations in all private rented sector (PRS) properties, along with checks on any electrical appliances supplied for the tenants, will become mandatory in England.
The Housing and Planning Bill, which has been passed for amendments backwards and forwards between the House of Commons and Lords, heralds wide-ranging changes to the planning process in England as well as improved electrical safety, the latter following amendments encouraged by Electrical Safety First and other industry and tenant charity bodies.
Commenting on the Bill as it progressed, ESF Director General Phil Buckle said:
“We welcome the Government’s willingness to consider incorporating our amendment – which has gained the support of the Minister for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis, and a range of stakeholders, including the Local Government Association, Shelter, the Chief Fire Officers Association and the Association of Residential Letting Agents – as a clause in this Bill.
“Electricity causes around half of all domestic fires in Great Britain, killing one person each week and severely injuring well over a quarter of a million each year – significantly higher figures than those caused by gas and carbon monoxide – with research suggesting private tenants are more at risk. And in 2014, 16% of PRS tenants experienced electrical hazards, increasing to 20% for those with children. Yet there is no legal requirement for landlords to undertake regular electrical checks, unlike the regulations for gas, where they must provide an annual safety certificate.”
On 12 May 2016, the Housing and Planning Bill, which was first introduced in October 2015, finally received Royal Assent and became law.
The Government sees the Act as setting out to allow more people to buy their own home and accelerate the building of houses. Government Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has said:
The Housing and Planning Act “…will increase the housing supply alongside home ownership building on the biggest affordable house building program since the 1970s. (It will) …contribute to transforming generation rent into generation buy.”
The Act extends right-to-buy discounts to housing association tenants and places a duty on local planning authorities to promote starter homes. It aims to free up more brownfield land to develop quickly and simplify and speed up neighbourhood planning processes. The Act also places a duty on local councils to consider selling their higher value assets when they become vacant.
Electrical Safety First says it successfully fought to have these essential safety checks provided to PRS tenants in Scotland, and has also gained cross-party support for this issue in Wales and Northern Ireland. The inclusion of these checks in the Bill for England has been widely welcomed.
5-yearly electrical checks coming https://t.co/A2OGyRMbfS
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) May 26, 2016