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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/electrical-safety-in-social-housing-consultation-and-call-for-evidence/consultation-and-call-for-evidence-on-electrical-safety-in-the-social-rented-sector
Through the Levelling Up White Paper and the Social Housing White Paper, the government has committed to radically improve housing quality and set ambitions to ensure that housing is safe and decent.
This consultation paper follows the commitment in the Social Housing White Paper to consult on electrical safety standards in the social rented sector. It aims to improve safety for residents in social rented homes and bring greater parity between the rented sectors. Specifically, this consultation seeks comments on the following proposals:
Proposal A: Mandatory checks on electrical installations for social housing at least every 5 years.
Proposal B: Mandatory Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) on all electrical appliances that are provided by social landlords as part of a tenancy.
Call for Evidence: Mandatory checks on electrical installations for owner-occupier leasehold properties within social housing blocks at least every five years.
These proposals relate to England only.
Annex B sets out the expected impacts (costs and benefits) of the proposals made in this consultation. Full analysis of the impact of proposals A and B will be found in the Impact Assessment for the Social Housing Regulation Bill. Where the proposals taken forward require secondary legislation further assessments will need to be made, and these will need to reflect the outcome of the consultation and the responses.
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
This consultation will run for 12 weeks from 8 June 2022 to 31 August 2022.
For any enquiries about the consultation please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You may respond by completing this online survey
Alternatively, you can email your response to the questions in this consultation to: email@example.com
If you are responding in writing, please make it clear which questions you are responding to.
Written responses should be sent to:
SRS Electrical Safety Consultation Social Housing Division Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities 3rd Floor, Fry Building 2 Marsham Street SW1P 4DF
When you reply, it would be useful if you confirm whether you are replying as an individual or submitting an official response on behalf of an organisation and include:
We strongly encourage responses via the online survey, particularly from organisations with access to online facilities such as local authorities, representative bodies, and businesses. Consultations receive a high level of interest across many sectors. Using the online survey greatly assists our analysis of the responses, enabling more efficient and effective consideration of the issues raised.
1. Everybody should be able to live in a safe home, and the government is committed to creating a fair and just housing system that works for everyone. The number of social homes classified as non-decent fell from 20% to 13% from 2010 to 2020[footnote 1], and through the Levelling Up White Paper and the Social Housing White Paper, we committed to radically improve housing quality and set out our ambitions to ensure that housing is safe and decent. Part of meeting these ambitions is to consider how to protect social housing residents from electrical harm. Poor electrical safety can have devastating effects and can even cost lives, which is why we are considering what steps the government can take to raise standards and improve safety for social housing residents.
2. In 2016, the Electrical Safety Standards Working Group was established to discuss the risks private sector tenants face in the home from electrical hazards and whether legislative intervention was required to improve electrical safety standards in the private rented sector. The Group’s recommendations were consulted on in 2018, and legislation to require testing of electrical installations came into force for private landlords in 2020. The remit of the Group did not extend to the social rented sector and the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 do not apply to the social rented sector.
3. Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, we published the Social Housing Green Paper in 2018 to seek views on proposals to reform social housing, including proposals to ensure social homes are safe and decent. The Green Paper asked whether there should be parity between the rented sectors in respect of safety standards, and the vast majority (90%) of respondents were in favour of equal safety standards. That is why, in the 2020 Social Housing White Paper, we committed to consult on measures to ensure that social homes are safe in respect of electrical safety.
4. Following the publication of the White Paper, we formed the Electrical Safety in Social Homes Working Group to help inform this consultation. The Group consisted of technical and sector representatives who shared their experience and expertise to inform our early policy thinking. The Group met three times between March and July 2021 and considered proposals that included mandating electrical safety installation checks in social housing every five years, to bring standards in the social rented sector in line with those in the private rented sector. The Group also considered the safety of electrical appliances and products, including the role that landlords could play in keeping residents informed of the dangers of using poor quality electrical products.
5. The Electrical Safety in Social Homes Working Group was strongly supportive of the introduction of mandatory checks on electrical installations at least every five years, to establish parity with the private rented sector. The Group was also supportive of mandatory testing of any electrical appliances that social landlords provide as part of a tenancy. This consultation looks at these two policies in detail, including their impact and implementation considerations, and seeks views on whether these are the best courses of action to protect social residents from electrical harm.
6. The Electrical Safety in Social Homes Working Group also raised concerns about owner-occupied leasehold properties in mixed-tenure blocks that include social rented properties. In these blocks of flats, poor electrical safety standards for the owner-occupied leasehold properties risk compromising the safety of the block as a whole. This could undermine the efforts and financial contributions of social landlords to improve electrical safety in their stock. Therefore, this consultation also welcomes views on whether owner-occupiers/ leasehold properties within social housing blocks would benefit from mandatory checks of electrical installations at least every five years.
7. We would like to thank the members of the Working Group and everyone who submitted evidence to support the development of this consultation, and thank you in advance for taking the time to read this document and providing a response.
8. Poor electrical safety can have devastating effects and government is committed to ensuring that social residents are safe in their homes. The Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 started with an electrical fire caused by a fridge-freezer.[footnote 2] In 2020/21 in England, there were sadly 55 deaths resulting from fires ignited by electrical appliances or installations and in the last 10 years there have been 788 fatalities from such fires.[footnote 3] Electrical safety issues can be difficult to detect with the naked eye, but there are steps government can take to raise standards and improve safety for social housing residents.
9. The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 came into force in June 2020. These regulations require private sector landlords to inspect and test (‘check’) their electrical installations at least once every five years to ensure they are safe for use. These requirements do not extend to social landlords. These Regulations have been a major step in improving electrical safety standards in the private rented sector and these proposals would take that even further. At the height of the pandemic, when people were spending so much more time in their homes – we increased safety further by requiring landlords to make sure the electrics in their properties were safe. Local councils have also been using the powers we gave them to do this – for example, it was reported that Fenland District Council has fined 5 landlords £25,000 for dangerous electrics.
10. In November 2020, the government published ‘The Charter for Social Housing Residents: Social Housing White Paper’. This set out wide-ranging changes that will improve the lives of social housing residents across the country. The White Paper states clearly what residents should expect of their landlord and explains the actions government will take to ensure that social housing residents live in safe and good quality homes. The White Paper recognised disparities between the private rented sector and the social rented sector on safety measures, and work is underway to address this issue.
11. The White Paper committed to consult on ways to make sure that social housing residents are protected from the harm caused by poor electrical safety. Following the publication of the White Paper, government formed the Electrical Safety in Social Rented Homes Working Group (the ‘Working Group’) to help inform this consultation.
12. The purpose of this consultation is to seek views on introducing mandatory electrical safety checks in the social rented sector and considers the inspection of both electrical installations and electrical appliances. The call for evidence section will also seek views on whether mandatory electrical installation checks should extend to owner-occupied leasehold properties in social housing blocks.
13. The number of electrical fires has been declining for a long time (in line with the overall trend for dwelling fires) but there are still thousands of electrical fires every year, with Home Office data for 2020/21 showing that over half of all accidental dwelling fires are of electrical origin.[footnote 4]
14. We do not know exactly how many fires occur in social homes, but data provided by the London Fire Brigade shows that a disproportionately high number of electrical fires in London attended by the Fire Investigation Team in the past five years, happened in social homes.[footnote 5] Between 2015/16 and 2016-17, 2% of social renters had a fire at home over those two years, compared with 1% of owner occupiers.[footnote 6]
15. In 2020/21 there were 14,858 accidental electrical dwelling fires in England, 37% of which were caused by faults. Of these 14,858 fires, the three most common sources were cooking appliances (56%), electrical distribution (installations, wiring, etc) (19%) and other domestic-style appliances (such as white goods, electronic chargers, etc) (14%).[footnote 7] There is a distinction between fires that originate in electrical installations (the fixed electrical parts of a home such as wiring and fuse boards) and in electrical appliances (such as electric cookers, white goods, space heaters and phone chargers).
16. Fires caused by installations are less common but more likely to have been caused by a fault than a human factor such as misuse or accident. In 2020/21, 88% of accidental dwelling fires that started with electrical distribution were caused by faults[footnote 8].
17. Fires caused by electrical appliances (cooking appliances and other domestic style appliances) are more common and the cause varies between appliances. For example, only 6% of fires that originate in cooking appliances are caused by faults and are more likely to be caused by human factors, but 79% of fires caused by other domestic style appliances are caused by faults.
18. The English Housing Survey (EHS) collects data on electrical safety based on whether a dwelling’s electrical installation has the following electrical safety features:
19. EHS data shows that social homes are in better condition than other tenures in respect of electrical safety. In 2019/20, 72% of social homes had all five features installed (compared to 65% of private rented homes and 60% of owner-occupied homes)[footnote 10]. However, this still means that over a quarter of social homes have electrical installations that could be safer.
20. Electrical Safety First (a UK charity that campaigns on electrical safety issues) has advised government that some of the key electrical issues encountered by social landlords are related to the age of their homes. For example, older homes are less likely to benefit from the installation of residual current devices (RCDs), which offer protection from electrocution and fires, and older homes are more likely to be affected by low socket provision resulting in socket overloading (which is a fire risk).[footnote 11]
21. A lot of social homes are older properties. The majority (57%) of social homes were built between 1945-1980 and over 70% of social homes are more than 40 years old.[footnote 12] This means that many social homes are at risk of the above-detailed electrical issues associated with age. The age of the social housing stock is similar to that of the PRS, meaning the sectors are likely to face a similar level of age-associated risk.[footnote 13]
22. Electrical issues in the home can cause electrical injuries such as electric shocks.
23. The NHS publishes data on hospital A&E activity in England, which includes attendances at A&E by first diagnosis. The data shows a sharp decline in the number of attendances for electric shocks, from a peak of 11,685 in 2014/15 to 153 in 2019/20.[footnote 14] The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published data (2001 to 2018) on the number of deaths recorded from exposure to electric current, which broadly shows a decline in such deaths over time. Between 2001 and 2018, the number of deaths registered in-year decreased from 38 to 10.[footnote 15]
24. Electric shock incidents are not well reported, meaning the scale of the problem is not well understood; we do not know exactly how such incidents are caused, or how many happen in domestic settings such as social homes. What we do know, is that when electrocutions do occur, they can cause serious injury or be fatal.
25. English Housing Survey 2019/20 data[footnote 16] on feeling safe from fire shows that renters are less likely to feel safe from fire in their homes than owner occupiers. Also, people living in low (11%) and high (21%) rise flats are more likely than those who live in other dwelling types (e.g. houses (2-6%)) to feel unsafe in their homes due to fear that a fire may break out.[footnote 17] This is a particular issue for the social rented sector with 43% of social homes being purpose-built flats (compared to 14% in the private sector) in 2020-21.[footnote 18]
26. The government is committed to learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which raised critical questions for everyone involved in social housing. Concerns around electrical safety in social housing were first raised in the Social Housing Green Paper, where we identified a lack of parity between the private and social sectors in respect of safety. The Green Paper sought views on proposals to reform social housing, including ways to ensure social homes are safe and decent, and the vast majority (91%) of respondents were in favour of parity between the rented sectors with regard to safety standards.
27. It was in the Social Housing White Paper that we committed to undertaking this consultation so we can understand how best to protect social residents from harm caused by poor electrical safety in their homes.
28. The government is committed to creating a fair and just housing system that works for everyone. This is essential for spreading opportunity and levelling up.1. The Levelling Up White Paper published in February 2022 set out several measures to spread opportunity more equally across the UK and radically improve housing quality. This includes a policy programme for housing to support more first-time buyers to move onto the housing ladder, deliver more homes that are genuinely affordable, radically improve housing quality and reduce homelessness. The importance of housing goes beyond its availability. Having a decent home is fundamental to well-being and housing quality must be addressed in order to create thriving neighbourhoods and communities.
29. Through the Levelling Up White Paper, the government has committed to halve the number of non-decent rented homes in all tenures by 2030, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas. This ambition means we will bring around 800,000 homes up to a basic standard of decency across both the private rented sector and the social rented sector combined.
30. In the Social Housing White Paper, we committed to review the Decent Homes Standard to ensure it is delivering what is needed for safety and decency now. The Review will no longer exclusively focus on the social rented sector. Part 2 of the review will now consider how best to deliver on government’s ambition on reducing non-decent homes for both social and private rented sectors.
31. In November 2020, the government published the Social Housing White Paper (the White Paper) which set out changes to improve the lives of social housing residents in England. The White Paper sets out what residents should expect of their landlord and transforms social housing redress and the regulatory regime in order to rebalance the relationship between landlords and tenants. Residents are at the heart of the White Paper and the reforms will drive a real culture change throughout the social housing sector.
32. Since the publication of the White Paper, the government has consulted on proposals to extend requirements for smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms to social homes. On 11 May 2022, The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022 were laid in draft before Parliament. The House of Commons and the House of Lords will now debate the regulations, and if both Houses approve them, they will come into force on 1 October 2022.
33. We have also concluded Part 1 of the Decent Homes Standard Review, run a national campaign to raise awareness of how to make complaints and seek redress, and delivered an information package about how to tackle anti-social behaviour.
34. As part of the changes through the White Paper, the Regulator of Social Housing is also actively taking forward work to develop the new Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs) and published their consultation on TSMs in December 2021. Electrical safety was not in scope for the Regulator’s consultation as it is being covered in this consultation.
35. We have introduced legislation that will enable a new, proactive approach to the regulation of social housing landlords on consumer issues such as safety, transparency and tenant engagement, with new enforcement powers to tackle failing landlords. It will support a strong new regulatory regime which will drive significant change in landlord behaviour, ensuring landlords focus on the needs of their tenants and are held to account for their performance.
36. The legislation has three core objectives:
1. To introduce a new, proactive consumer regulation regime so providers of social housing can be effectively held to account for the services they provide to tenants.
2. To refine the existing economic regulatory regime to make sure social housing providers are well governed and financially viable, to protect homes and investment in new supply.
3. To strengthen the enforcement powers of the Regulator for Social Housing (‘the Regulator’), enabling it to take robust action where landlords are in breach of the standards.
37. The Bill and accompanying documents will be available on the Parliament website.
38. During our consultation events held while preparing the Social Housing Green and White papers, we heard that the Decent Homes Standard is no longer considered fully effective and does not meet present day concerns. We are reviewing the Decent Homes Standard to consider whether it needs to be updated to deliver what is needed for safety and decency today. The government convened a Sounding Board of residents, experts, landlords and sector representatives to provide support to the Review, and Part 1 of the Review took place in 2021.
39. In February 2022, the Levelling Up White Paper announced the government will explore the proposal for new minimum standards in the private rented sector. The government has set an ambition for non-decent homes in all rented sectors to be reduced by 50% by 2030 with the biggest improvements in the lowest-performing areas. The Review will now consider how best to deliver on the government’s ambition on reducing non-decent homes for both social and private rented sectors.
40. Minimum standards for electrical safety as may apply to any revision of the Decent Homes Standard are not in scope of this consultation. The potential inclusion of electrical safety measures is under consideration as part of the Decent Homes Review. The government will consult on any revision of the Decent Homes Standard that would apply to both the private and social rented sectors in due course.
41. Following the publication of the Social Housing White Paper, we formed the Electrical Safety in Social Rented Homes Working Group (‘the Working Group’). This working group of technical experts, industry professionals and social sector representatives met 3 times between March and July 2021 at meetings chaired by DLUHC officials. Meetings explored the background and evidence base on electrical safety in the social rented sector and members were asked to help assess policy options to improve electrical safety in social homes. Three distinct areas were chosen for discussion: electrical installations, electrical appliances, and resident behaviours.
42. Discussions revealed several issues with the current regime on electrical safety in social housing, and those issues are explored through this consultation. Members of the Working Group reported that the lack of clarity on requirements for landlords has resulted in a varied practice across the sector. For example, several social landlords carry out safety checks on electrical installations every 5 years[footnote 19], whilst others carry out the checks at different frequencies (such as every 10 years), or only carry out checks at a change of occupation, rather than undertaking cyclical inspections.[footnote 20]
43. We also heard cases of senior leadership within social housing providers being reluctant to sanction funding for electrical safety checks. Members suggested clear instructions from the government on electrical safety would reinforce its importance, ensure it is prioritised by senior leadership and generate consistent practice across the sector with sufficient funding.
44. Further information on the Working Group can be found at Annex C.
45. Social housing residents in Scotland and Wales already benefit from protections against electrical harm in their home.
46. The Scottish Housing Quality Standard requires social landlords to provide safe electrical systems. The electrical system in the property must not be dangerous to the inhabitant as indicated by: broken casings; damaged power socket boxes; exposed wiring; other obvious signs of damage, disrepair or unauthorised alterations, especially to the consumer/meter units.
47. The technical guidance states that if a social landlord has provided any electrical appliances, they should organise portable appliance testing (PAT) at intervals as recommended by the inspector. This means that when an appliance is first PAT tested, the electrician carrying out the test will recommend how often that appliance should be tested.
48. The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 will require all landlords to have electrical installations inspected by a competent person at least every five years. Section 91 of the Act places an obligation on landlords to make sure their homes are fit for human habitation (FFHH). The guidance ‘Fitness of homes for human habitation: guidance for landlords’ explains what landlords in Wales must do from 15 July 2022 to ensure their property is in good repair and fit for human habitation. The Renting Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) (Wales) Regulations 2022 (“the FFHH Regulations”) set out 29 matters and circumstances to which regard must be had when determining whether a property is FFHH, one of which is electrical hazards. Landlord requirements include ensuring the inspection and testing of electrical installations by a qualified person at least every five years.
49. As a top priority for the government, it is right that we take all necessary and reasonable steps to strengthen the safety of our homes, whatever tenure they happen to be.
50. The government is committed to learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and have already taken significant action. Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the government commissioned Dame Judith Hackitt to chair the Independent Review of Building and Fire Safety. The Building Safety Programme was established in 2017 to make sure that buildings are safe, and people feel safe, now and in the future. The Independent Hackitt Review found that the existing regulatory system was not fit for purpose in relation to high-rise and complex buildings. The Review found that the industry needed significant cultural and regulatory change to be fit for purpose and provides the basis of the new regime being introduced – a strengthened regulatory regime for high-rise and other in-scope buildings, improving accountability, risk management and assurance.
51. The Building Safety Act 2022[footnote 21] supports and delivers the changes needed and marks the next step in the government’s ongoing reforms to make sure everyone’s home is a place of safety. The Act will deliver improvements across the entire built environment. It strengthens oversight and protections for residents in high-rise buildings. It gives greater say to residents of tall buildings and toughens sanctions against those who threaten their safety. Its focus on risk will help owners to manage their buildings better, while giving the home-building industry the clear, proportionate, framework it needs to deliver more, better, high-quality homes.
52. Through the Building Safety Act, we are undertaking the biggest change in building safety for a generation. The Act will create an enhanced safety regime for higher risk residential buildings (defined as buildings at least 18m tall or those that have more than six storeys above ground level and contain at least two residential dwellings). Registered providers of social housing who own buildings which meet the criteria, will be subject to specific obligations as the Accountable Person for building safety. These include an ongoing duty to assess building safety risks[footnote 22] and take all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence or minimise the impact of a major incident in the building.
53. The Grenfell Tower Inquiry was launched in 2018 and government is committed to implementing and legislating the recommendations made through the inquiry.[footnote 23] £5.1 billion of government funding has been allocated to remove unsafe cladding from high-rise residential buildings and as of 31 December 2021 over £1.4 billion has been approved for funding, of which £0.4 billion is in the social housing sector.
54. The government also commenced the Fire Safety Act 2021 on 16 May 2022 to strengthen protections in a number of areas. The Fire Safety Act amended The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (“Fire Safety Order”). It clarifies that for any building containing two or more sets of domestic premises the Fire Safety Order applies to the building’s structure, common parts, and external walls (including “doors or windows in those walls” and “anything attached to the exterior of those walls (including balconies)”). These amendments are expected to provide for increased enforcement action in these areas, particularly where remediation of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding is not taking place.
55. The Social Sector (Building Safety) Engagement Best Practice Group was established in 2019 to develop best practice in resident engagement and communication, influence policy development and consider how approaches to resident engagement with regards to fire and building safety could be applied to other tenures. The Social Sector (Building Safety) Engagement Best Practice Group: Final Report provides recommendations on how best to engage with residents on safety issues. For example, the report showed that infographics endorsed by the Fire and Rescue Services were effective at improving awareness and recollection of fire safety measures. Government will publish their response to this report in due course.
56. The safety of individuals, families and communities is a top priority for government. In large part, the safety of electrical appliances in the home depends on whether they are safely manufactured and sold, and whether the right checks and balances are in place throughout the supply chain. Existing product safety legislation places obligations on manufacturers, importers, and distributors to ensure that consumer products, including electrical goods, are safe before being placed on the UK market. The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) was created in January 2018 to deliver consumer protection and to support business confidence, productivity and growth. OPSS regulates a wide range of products with a focus on their safety and integrity working with local, national, and international regulators as well as with consumer representatives and businesses to deliver effective protections and to support compliance with product safety legislation.
57. OPSS leads and coordinates the UK’s product safety system and continues to take action to improve product safety, including for electrical appliances. These actions include implementing a national product safety incident management system and a new Product Safety Database which enables Trading Standards and OPSS to share information on products that present a risk to the health and safety of consumers. OPSS issues Product Safety Alerts where it is necessary to alert consumers, Trading Standards, and businesses to the risks of serious injury or fatality relating to use of consumer products available on the UK market and where immediate action is required.
58. The government Product Recalls and Alerts website provides information on recalls of electrical goods and other household products so consumers can check whether their product is unsafe or subject to a recall. The Home Office collaborates with OPSS to support and promote the Register My Appliance initiative, run by the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Electrical Appliances, which enables the public to register new and older appliances. This initiative is designed to improve recall rates and ensure a greater number of faulty products can be traced and either repaired or removed from homes.
59. OPSS is leading a Product Safety Review to ensure that the product safety framework is simple, flexible and fit for the future. A call for evidence ran from March to June 2021. The government response (November 2021) set out stakeholder responses as well as government’s immediate actions and priorities for an ambitious programme of reform encompassing areas such as e-commerce and new technologies. OPSS intends to publish a consultation outlining proposals for future regulatory reform later this year.
60. The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 came into force in June 2020. The regulations require private landlords to ensure that electrical installations are inspected and tested every five years, or more often if the inspector deems necessary. The inspection includes the wiring, sockets, consumer units and other fixed electrical parts, and landlords must provide an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) to show the outcome. The 2020 Regulations do not apply to social landlords.
61. Although there is no legal requirement equivalent to the 2020 regulations for social landlords to carry out electrical safety inspections, social landlords do have some legal obligations in respect of electrical safety (further detail in Annex D). Landlords must keep electrical installations in repair[footnote 24] and ensure that homes are free from ‘Category 1’ electrical hazards (as defined by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)).[footnote 25] To meet the guidance of Approved Document P (Electrical Safety) under the Building Regulations 2010, landlords must ensure that when work is carried out on electrical installations in dwellings it complied with the technical requirements set out in BS7671Requirements for Electrical Installations (also known as the IET Wiring Regulations).
62. Existing requirements have been described by stakeholders as a ‘patchwork of legislation’. This causes uncertainty and has several knock-on effects, for example including low levels of tenant and landlord awareness about electrical safety requirements, and problems gaining access as a result.
63. The Regulator of Social Housing requires all registered social landlords to meet its consumer standards, including its Home Standard[footnote 26] which outlines expectations on quality of accommodation and repairs. The Home Standard states that registered providers must ensure that homes meet the standard set out in Chapter 5 of the Decent Homes Standard (which requires homes to be free of Category 1 electrical and fire hazards as defined by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Homes must also meet all applicable statutory requirements around health and safety of occupants in their homes.
64. Where there is evidence of systemic failure that would cause serious detriment, the Regulator of Social Housing will issue a Regulatory Notice, which could lead to formal enforcement action. The Social Housing White Paper set out our intention to reform the consumer regulation role of the Regulator of Social Housing. Proposed changes include a more proactive consumer regulatory regime and removal of the ‘serious detriment’ test.
65. The Electrical Safety Roundtable is an industry forum for organisations with expertise in electrical safety. In January 2019, the Electrical Safety Roundtable Social Housing Sub-Group[footnote 27] published a code of practice for social landlords. The Code of Practice for the Management of Electrotechnical Care in Social Housing[footnote 28] recommends that electrical installations are inspected and tested with an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) produced at least once every five years, as well as at change of occupancy. It also recommends that landlords should develop a clear policy on electrical safety that is approved at executive level. The Code is voluntary, non-statutory and non-regulatory, but has been adopted by at least twenty-two social housing providers to date.
66. At present, social landlords are legally obliged to keep their electrical installations in repair, but not to inspect them.
67. The Working Group considered options to improve the safety of electrical installations in social homes, namely introducing mandatory safety checks on electrical installations at a minimum of five-yearly intervals, mirroring the requirement in the private rented sector.
68. Overall, the Working Group was in favour of introducing such a requirement for social landlords. They considered resident safety a top priority for landlords and were supportive of parity between the rented sectors.
69. Mandating five-yearly checks on electrical installations would mean social landlords must:
70. In the private rented sector, landlords are required to provide a copy of the EICR to tenants at the start of the tenancy, within 28 days of the inspection, or within 28 days of a tenant requesting a copy. The Private Rented Sector Electrical Safety Working Group agreed this would achieve consistency with legislation in Scotland and provide clarity for landlords and tenants on their rights and responsibilities. Current practice in the social rented sector regarding providing a copy of the EICR to residents is varied. A survey conducted by the Electrical Safety Roundtable Social Housing Sub-Group found that some social landlords will issue copies of EICRs at the start of the tenancies, but most only provide tenants with a copy if the EICR finds that further investigative or remedial work is needed, or if the tenant requests a copy. Through the survey we have heard that few tenants express interest in the EICR, as these are technical and have been described as confusing.
71. The working group also considered whether safety checks should be encouraged as best practice, rather than be mandated in law, as this would allow more flexibility for landlords. However, this would neither solve the issue of disparity, nor provide social landlords with clarity on the actions they are expected to take and was therefore considered inappropriate. Legal requirements for social landlords could be clearer, and a mandatory legal requirement would address this. Safety checks at regular intervals can provide reassurance and peace of mind for residents and would address the disparity in standards between the rented sectors.
72. Electrical installations will deteriorate over time and regular inspections can identify dangerous levels of deterioration, or any faults.
73. Faulty or ageing electrical systems can cause fires and have the potential to cause serious harm, or even fatal electrocution[footnote 30]. The data shows us that every year, thousands of fires in homes in England are caused by faulty electrical installations. In 2020/21 there were 24,254 accidental dwelling fires and we know that 12% of these were caused by electrical installations[footnote 31]. Whilst we do not know exactly how many of these fires occur in social homes, we do know that over a quarter of social homes have electrical installations that could be safer than they currently are[footnote 32]. Mandatory inspection and testing are likely to result in unsafe installations being identified and remedied.
74. Mandatory five-yearly checks on electrical installations with the production of an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) recognised across the sector as the most effective way to make sure electrical installations are safe.
75. Our assessment of the costs and monetised benefits found that a mandatory regime of electrical safety checks every five-years would have total net costs of £56.04 million for private registered providers of social housing and £31.37 million for local authorities over the initial ten-year appraisal period. This is the cost to social housing properties that do not already undergo inspection and testing.
76. The average cost to private registered providers of social housing to carry out electrical installation checks over a ten-year appraisal period is £170.67 per property. If these were to be conducted every five years this would equate to a cost of roughly £34.13 per property, per year. For local authorities, the estimated direct cost per property is £164.80 and £32.96 per property per year. In addition to checks, there would be a one-off familiarisation cost across the sector of roughly £101,000 for private registered providers and £24,500 for local authorities.
77. Any electrical installations deemed through inspection to be unsafe for continued use would require remedial work, but this would not represent an additional direct cost for social landlords. Social landlords are already required under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to keep electrical installations in any property they rent out in good repair and proper working order. Social landlords can already be required by the local authority to undertake any necessary works to remove a serious hazard, including electrical hazards, in the home.
78. Mandating electrical safety checks for installations will be beneficial for fire and building safety and the number of fire-related injuries and fatalities is likely to reduce as a result of any remediation works identified and recommended through checks. A lack of data examining the causal link between checks and improvements to safety means the improvements have not been monetised in the Impact Assessment.
79. As we have not been able to monetise the benefits of mandating installation checks, breakeven analysis has been used to illustrate the extent of benefits needed for this policy to have a positive Net Present Social Value. Put simply, the breakeven analysis demonstrates how many lives would have to be saved for the policy to break even financially. We have used the Department for Transport’s (DfT) values of a road traffic fatality or casualty as a proxy for the cost of life or non-fatal injuries caused by fires. DfT values a fatality at £1,935,648.75 (over a lifetime) and a serious non-fatal injury is valued at £216,074.18.
80. This means that for the policy to break even for private registered providers of social housing mandatory installation checks would have to prevent three fire-related fatalities per year, and 24 non-fatal fire-related injuries per year. The cost of preventing one fatality would be equal to carrying out 11,341 checks, and the cost of preventing one non-fatal injury would be 1,266 checks. For the policy to break even for local authority housing, mandatory installation checks would have to prevent two fire-related fatalities per year, or 16 non-fatal fire-related injuries per year. The cost of preventing one fatality would be equal to carrying out 11,745 checks, and the cost of preventing one non-fatal injury would be 1,311 checks.
81. The government acknowledges the support of the Working Group for this proposal and agrees with the proposal to mandate five-yearly checks of electrical installations.
Question 1 (a): Do you agree that mandatory inspection and testing at least every five years of electrical installations should be a legal requirement in the social rented sector?
Yes/No. If yes, please answer question 1 (b). Please provide supporting details.
Question 1 (b): If yes, should it be a requirement that a copy of the EICR report be issued to social residents within 28 days, or to any new tenant before they occupy the property?
Yes/No. Please provide supporting details.
82. It can be difficult to know how best to keep oneself safe from electrical harm and it is not always easy to identify whether electrical appliances are safe for use, especially when purchased second-hand. With the pressures that come with a rising cost of living, social residents may have little choice but to rely on second-hand or lower cost appliances that may appear to be good value for money but which could be fake, faulty and unsafe.
83. PAT testing is the process of checking the safety of electrical appliances through a series of visual inspections and electronic tests carried out by a competent person. The type and frequency of testing required varies by appliance, but typically involves a visual examination as a minimum. It may also involve an in-depth check using specialist equipment. The Working Group considered whether social landlords should be required to carry out regular inspections of electrical appliances through Portable Appliance Testing (PAT).
84. The Working Group did not support a requirement for landlords to inspect appliances that belong to residents because this could be highly disruptive, especially if personal appliances are found to be faulty and removed. This would also raise questions about landlord responsibilities for replacement. PAT testing of residents’ personal appliances may also be invasive and problematic. Mandating PAT testing for all personal appliances would therefore come at a high cost and could result in tension between landlords and tenants.
85. A more workable solution could be to make sure that residents know how to verify the safety of their appliances through safe use, visual checks, registration of appliances and the purchasing of safe and reputable electrical goods. The Working Group discussed the role human actions can play in electrical fires and the role landlords can play in disseminating information (Annex C).
86. Overall, the Working Group supported the idea of regular inspections of appliances provided by social landlords and said it would be a reasonable legal requirement.
87. Only around 2% of social tenancies are furnished meaning that in most cases appliances in social homes belong to residents[footnote 33]. Through the Working Group and engagement with the sector, we have heard that when appliances (usually white goods) are supplied, they do already undergo PAT testing. In many cases, furnished tenancies will be offered to particularly vulnerable residents such as those in supported housing. Supported Housing in Partnership (SHiP)’s Monitoring Toolkit covers all aspects of health and safety monitoring in a supported housing scheme, including electrical safety. SHiP member landlords require that PAT testing takes place annually on all portable equipment provided by the Landlord or their Managing Agent. Many SHiP members and their managing agents also offer to PAT test residents’ electrical items, to help in maintaining a safe environment, but this element is not compulsory[footnote 34].
88. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that PAT tests be carried out periodically at a frequency appropriate to the electrical equipment, the manner and frequency of use, and the environment[footnote 35]. The guidance for private landlords recommends that landlords carry out PAT testing regularly but does not specify a frequency. The Scottish Housing Quality Standard requires that when a competent person carries out a five yearly check, they should confirm that PATs are up to date for those appliances. In practice, this means that PAT testing is required at least every 5 years, because when an EICR is carried out electricians have to confirm PAT is up to date. However, the period needed between PAT testing will vary according to the type of appliance and conditions of use, and the qualified inspector will recommend the frequency according to these factors.
89. The government proposes that PAT testing of appliances provided by social landlords be made a legal requirement. If PAT testing is mandated, we propose the frequency be determined according to risk assessment, but that evidence of PAT testing must be provided with an EICR certificate to ensure PAT testing is completed at least every five years[footnote 36]. We welcome views on this approach.
90. In 2020/21, there were 24,254 accidental dwelling fires and we know that 3.2% of these were caused by space heating appliances and 11% by other electrical appliances. 12% of these were caused by electrical distribution (installations, wiring, etc).
91. Faulty are responsible for 78% of accidental dwelling fires caused by white goods (excluding cookers). In 2020/21, faulty appliances and leads were the cause of accidental dwelling fires for 90% of fridge/freezer fires, 86% of dishwasher fires and 74% of washing machine or tumble dryer fires[footnote 37]. Only 4% of fires caused by cookers/ovens in 2020/21 were the result of faulty appliances and leads and were most likely the result of misuse or placing articles too close to the heat source[footnote 38].
92. PAT testing is considered the most effective way to ensure safety of electrical appliances by identifying faults. PAT testing of appliances provided by landlords, though not mandated, is already practiced widely across the social rented sector. Mandating these tests would address the small number of landlords that do not already carry out PAT testing and make sure that all social tenants have the same protections with regard to electrical appliances provided by their landlords. Although only a small portion of social tenancies are furnished, mandating PAT testing would ensure that any appliances provided by social landlords are and will remain safe for use.
93. Our assessment of the costs and monetised benefits found that mandatory PAT testing of appliances provided by the landlord would have total net costs of £1.06 million for private registered providers, and £395,000 for local authorities over the initial ten-year appraisal period, assuming tests are carried out every five years. However, we have assumed that these costs are not ‘additional’ as evidence gathered from stakeholder suggests that in the limited number of social homes where appliances are provided, portable appliance testing is already undertaken.
94. The central cost for all registered providers to carry out PAT testing is £67.21 plus a cost of £0.88 per item tested. Stakeholders with knowledge of operational practices in respect of electrical safety have informed us that furnished tenancies would most likely be provided as part of a tenancy with housing support provision. It is commonplace for PAT tests to already be undertaken in these settings. As a result, we have assumed that there are no additional costs associated with this policy to private registered providers.
95. We acknowledge the importance of taking steps to ensure electrical appliances are safe for use and we welcome views on this proposal as part of this consultation.
Question 2 (a): Do you agree that PAT testing of appliances provided by social landlords should be a legal requirement?
Yes/No. If yes, please answer 2 (b). Please provide supporting details.
Question 2 (b): Do you agree that the frequency of PAT testing should be determined according to risk assessment, but that evidence of PAT testing must be provided with an EICR certificate to ensure PAT testing is completed at least every five years?
Yes/No. Please provide supporting details
Question 3: Do you agree that PAT testing of residents’ personal appliances should not be a legal requirement?
Yes/No. Please provide supporting details.
96. We are seeking views on how the measures set out in Proposal A and Proposal B could be implemented and what successful enforcement would look like.
97. We know from the working group and from research commissioned by Electrical Safety First that social landlords often face difficulty gaining access to residents’ homes for electrical safety checks[footnote 39].
98. Electrical safety does not have the legal status or prominence that gas safety does, so residents may not understand the risks and therefore be reluctant to grant access for safety checks. Additionally, the lack of a specific legislative requirement for electrical safety checks means social landlords may be unclear on what legal grounds they could rely on to gain access to properties. Landlords may opt to go to court for an injunction if they cannot gain access, but this is both costly and time consuming. Regulations would give social landlords a clear legal basis to gain access for checks.
99. Keeping residents informed on the importance of electrical safety could have a positive impact on gaining access to carry out checks. The Electrical Safety Roundtable’s Social Housing Sub-Group has created an infographic that social landlords can distribute to residents explaining why access is required and the dangers of leaving electrical installations unchecked[footnote 40].
100. We welcome views on whether introducing a legal requirement to carry out safety checks of electrical installations and/or appliances provided by social landlords will address the challenges of access that landlords often experience.
Question 4: Do you think a legal requirement for electrical safety checks would improve landlord access to properties to carry out checks?
Yes/No. Please provide supporting details.
Question 5: Do you think there is more that government could do to ensure social landlords are able to access properties and carry out these checks?
Yes/No. Please provide supporting details and/or recommendations.
101. An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) must be carried out by a skilled person (electrically). The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Wiring Regulations (BS7671) define a skilled person (electrically) as: “Person who possesses, as appropriate to the nature of the electrical work to be undertaken, adequate education, training, practical skills, and who is able to perceive risks and avoid hazards that electricity can create.”[footnote 41]
102. The IET are a member of the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS) management committee who set out the specification to assess the qualifications and competence of enterprises registered through a Competent Person Scheme (CPS) through the EAS[footnote 42]. The required level of competence, qualifications and experience required to carry out an EICR are higher than for other more straightforward work on electrical installations as the inspections are complex and require a certain level of competence, experience and understanding of BS 7671 with respect to its application[footnote 43]. There are several relevant electrical operatives qualifications relating to the inspection, testing and verification of electrical installations. However, these alone do not provide the level of competence required to competently undertake an EICR. For PAT testing, the required qualifications and competence is significantly different from that required for correctly carrying out an EICR[footnote 44].
103. Some members of the Working Group expressed concerns about whether the sector would have the skills and capacity to meet the demands of mandatory electrical safety checks. Market research estimates that there are approximately 250,000 people working as electric installers or electric fitters in the UK[footnote 45], but it is not clear how many of these meet the competency requirements for carrying out an EICR, and there is some evidence of skills shortages across the electrotechnical sector workforce[footnote 46].
104. There is important work underway by the government to support the sector. In April 2021, the government launched the Level 3 Free Courses for Jobs offer as part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. This allows eligible adults to gain an A level-equivalent qualification for free, to support them to gain higher wages or a better job. The offer funds qualifications such as the Level 3 Diploma in Electrical Installations, which can bolster skills in the electrotechnical industry. Any adult in England without an existing Level 3 Diploma can access these qualifications. In addition, eligibility has recently expanded to also include any adult in England who is earning under the National Living Wage or unemployed, regardless of their prior qualification level.
105. Additionally, through the Qualifications Review, work is underway to streamline and improve the quality of post-16 qualifications at Level 3 and below. The review will create clearly defined routes to skilled employment, including in the electrotechnical industry.
106. The ‘Guide for landlords: electrical safety standards in the private rented sector’ advises landlords commissioning an electrical safety inspection to check if the inspector is a member of a competent person scheme and/or require the inspector to sign a checklist certifying their competence. The checklist includes their experience, whether they have adequate insurance and if they hold a qualification covering the current version of the Wiring Regulations and the periodic inspection, testing and certification of electrical installations.
107. We welcome views on whether guidance for social landlords should include the same advice for commissioning electrical safety inspections.
Question 6: Do you agree that the Guide for landlords offers suitable advice for landlords to identify competent and skilled inspectors, and could be applied to the social rented sector?
Yes/No. Please provide supporting details and recommendations.
108. Delaying implementation of any new measures could put lives at risk, so one option for implementation is to bring requirements into force as soon as practicable following the laying of regulations.
109. However, some Working Group members suggested requirements be phased in over several years, due to concerns over the current capacity of the workforce and to ensure there is an adequate number of competent electricians to meet demand.
110. Mandating electrical safety checks could increase demand on the electrotechnical sector and a single date for requirements to be met could lead to peaks in demand for competent electricians every five years. We acknowledge that a phased implementation could help to manage this. For example, the requirements could come into force for new tenancies in the first year once regulations are made, and for all tenancies in the following year. This would follow the approach taken for private rented sector requirements and give landlords an opportunity to prepare for any changes.
111. We are seeking evidence on the necessity of a phased implementation approach.
Question 7: Should any requirements be introduced in a phased way as exampled above?
Yes/No. Please provide supporting details.
112. In the private rented sector if an electrical installation is found to require further investigative work or remedial action, landlords must complete this work within 28 days, or a shorter period if specified as necessary in the report. Landlords must provide written confirmation that the work has been carried out to their tenant and to the local authority within 28 days of completing the work.
113. Some Working Group members said that 28 days would not be a sufficient period for social landlords to complete any remedial works, and we are keen to hear respondents’ views on this.
Question 8: Would 28 days be a sufficient period for social landlords to complete any remedial works?
Yes/No. Please explain further and/or recommend what would be a sufficient period.
114. The government recognises that robust and effective enforcement are essential to the successful implementation of any regulations introduced. If requirements for electrical safety checks are introduced, consideration would need to be given to the implementation and enforcement of these measures.
115. We propose that the body responsible for enforcing electrical safety measures in social rented homes be the local housing authority. Although stock-owning local authorities cannot take statutory enforcement action against themselves in respect of their own homes, they will be expected to ensure their homes comply and to hold themselves to the same standard they hold other social landlords.
116. This consultation invites views on whether local authorities should enforce the regulations and the level of financial or other penalties that should imposed for non-compliance.
117. The government would also be interested in hearing views on whether enforcement authorities should be able to issue sanctions other than a financial penalty. These may include a remedial notice requiring a non-complaint landlord to arrange for an electrical installation safety check or an improvement notice requiring landlords to undertake remedial work where an electrical installation safety check has shown the installation to be unsafe for continued use.
118. In the private rented sector local authorities may impose a financial penalty of up to £30,000 on landlords who are in breach of their duties under the 2020 regulations. We propose that any new requirements in the social rented sector be aligned with this.
119. The government recognises that there needs to be sufficient deterrent to landlords failing to comply with any regulations introduced and is therefore interested in understanding whether a financial penalty of up to £30,000 (in line with the private rented sector and the civil penalties for housing offences introduced in 2017 under the Housing and Planning Act 2016)[footnote 47] would be appropriate.
Question 9: Should any regulations introduced be enforced by local housing authorities?
Yes/No. Please provide supporting details
Question 10: Do you agree that the penalty for non-compliance of any regulations introduced should be a civil penalty of up to £30,000?
Yes/No. Please provide supporting details
120. Some members of the Working Group raised concerns about owner-occupied leasehold properties in mixed-tenure blocks. Currently, there are no requirements for owner-occupiers to check their electrical installations but many social housing blocks contain owner-occupied flats owned on a leasehold basis. In buildings where social rented flats and owner-occupied leasehold flats are co-located, dangerous electrical installations in owner-occupied flats could compromise the safety of the block as a whole. They may also undermine the efforts and financial contributions of social landlords to make sure their stock is safe. Further, recent serious fires in high-rise buildings caused by electrical faults (such as the Grenfell Tower and the Shepherds Court fires) were in mixed tenure buildings, reinforcing the case for consistent electrical safety standards across tenures wherever practically and feasibly possible.
121. The National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) supports introducing electrical safety requirements for owner-occupiers in mixed-tenure blocks and highlighted that properties being considered by authorities for London’s Right to Buy Back programme often have electrical installations that are in a state of significant disrepair[footnote 48].
122. Owner-occupier leaseholders will have a vested interest in ensuring their properties are safe, so we would expect some flat owners to already be taking action to keep their flats safe from electrical hazards. However, stakeholder engagement suggests that many leaseholders do not take the initiative to have their electrical installations inspected and tested due to lack of information, and the National Fire Chiefs Council[footnote 49] suggested that many leaseholders would not think to carry out preventative electrical safety measures, only doing so when something has gone wrong. Stakeholders also suggested leaseholders may be unwilling to pay for inspections and associated repairs.
123. This consultation would welcome views on whether owner-occupied leasehold properties within social housing blocks would benefit from mandatory checks of electrical installations at least every five years.
124. Ensuring our buildings are safe is a top priority for government, and data shows that thousands of fires in homes in England are caused by faulty electrical installations.
125. The technical case for this proposal follows the case laid out for Proposal A.
126. To assist respondents in providing evidence, we have assessed what the costs and benefits of this policy consideration would be. Mandating electrical safety checks at least every five years in owner-occupied leasehold properties in social housing blocks is estimated to have a total net cost to leaseholders of between £50.1 million and £102 million (with a central scenario cost of £76.5 million) over the initial ten-year appraisal period (2025-2034).
127. The average cost to leaseholders to carry out an electrical safety test is £170.67 where the freeholder is a registered provider and £164.80 where the freeholder is a local authority, although there is likely to be significant variation across the sector depending on bedroom size and geographic location. On average, if leaseholders were required to conduct an electrical safety check every five years, that would equate to a cost between £34.13 and £32.96 per year per property.
128. Both the cost of inspections and any remedial work for electrical installations deemed to be unsafe through inspection would be passed through the service charge to leaseholders, or be payable by leaseholders directly themselves. The reasonableness of the costs of inspection as well as any remedial work could be challenged by leaseholders under Section 27A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
129. Mandating electrical safety checks for installations is likely to reduce the number of fire related injuries and fatalities, and lead to greater awareness of fire safety in residential buildings. A lack of data showing the causal link between checks and improvements to safety means the improvements have not been monetised in the Impact Assessment. As we have not been able to monetise the benefits, breakeven analysis has been completed to illustrate how many lives would have to be saved to make the policy cost-effective.
130. Using the value of a road traffic fatality or casualty identified by the Department for Transport (DfT) as a proxy to the cost of life in a fire, mandatory installation checks would have to prevent 40 fire-related fatalities over 10 years, and 354 non-fatal fire-related injuries over 10 years. The cost of preventing one fatality would be equal to carrying out 11,746 checks, and the cost of preventing one non-fatal injury would be 1,311 checks.
131. The impact assessment for this policy consideration can be found at Annex B.
132. Due to the complexity of permission and payment arrangements within the leasehold system, there are questions around who should be responsible to meet the cost of any new electrical safety requirements.
133. If Option 2 is pursued, an enforcement system would need to be designed because EICRs would be provided to leaseholders directly. If completed EICRs did require communal works to be carried out, this would likely need to be communicated to the landlord, with subsequent work arranged. The detail around how this would be implemented would have to be developed.
134. Regardless of whom the requirement falls onto, if installation checks were mandated for owner-occupied flats within social housing buildings at least every five years, those leaseholders would likely be obliged to cover the cost of regular inspections and subsequent repair works.
135. If freeholders are responsible for arranging checks and repair works, this may lead to additional project management fees that are passed onto leaseholders, further raising costs.
136. Finally, whilst requiring installations in all homes to be inspected and tested at least every five years could be beneficial in some instances, in others, for example for new builds, it may constitute an unnecessary burden so some exemptions might need to be considered.
Question 11: Would you support the introduction of a mandatory requirement for electrical installation checks in owner-occupier properties within social housing blocks?
Yes/No Please provide supporting details.
Question 12: If yes, do you agree this requirement should apply every five years?
Yes/No Please provide supporting details.
Question 13: What are your views on whether this requirement should be placed on owner-occupier leaseholders or their freeholders?
Question 14: If this requirement were to be placed on the owner-occupier, do you have any views on how it should be enforced?
Question 15: Do you have any views on how best to minimise the cost burdens of extending these requirements to owner-occupying leaseholders in social housing blocks?
Question 16: Do you have any other comments that have not been captured elsewhere in this consultation?
Yes/No. Please provide supporting details
Approved Document P: Approved Document P gives guidance for compliance with the Building Regulations requirements for Electrical Safety when work is carried out on the fixed electrical installation in dwellings in England.
BS 7671: The BS7671:2018 Requirements for Electrical Installations (AKA IET Wiring Regulations 18th Edition) apply to the design, erection and verification of electrical installations, also additions and alterations to existing installations.
Building Safety Act 2022: the Act to make provision about the safety of people in or about buildings and the standard of buildings, to amend the Architects Act 1997, and to amend provision about complaints made to a housing ombudsman.
Category 1 Hazard: A Category 1 Hazard is a hazard that is a serious risk to health and safety, as assessed through the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
Cooking appliances: includes ovens, microwaves, stoves, toasters, etc.
Decent Homes Review: The Social Housing White Paper published on 17 November 2020 announced a review of the Decent Homes Standard to understand if it is right for the social housing sector today.
Decent Homes Review Sounding Board: As part of the Decent Homes Review, the government invited experts with experience of the Standard to a Decent Homes Review Sounding Board. The Sounding Board met four times between February and September 2021 during Part One of the Review.
Decent Homes Standard: The Regulator of Social Housing requires social homes to meet the Decent Homes Standard. The Standard sets out four criteria for evaluating decency – it requires that homes are free of serious hazards, are in a reasonable state of repair, have reasonably modern facilities and services such as kitchens and bathrooms, and have efficient heating and effective insulation.
Domestic style appliances: includes white goods, chargers, irons, kettles etc
Electric Shock: A dangerous physiological effect resulting from the passing of an electric current through a human body.
Electrical Appliance: a portable electrical good, including electrical white goods (e.g. cookers, refrigerators and washing machines). Portable appliances generally have a cable and a plug.
Electrical Distribution: includes wiring, cabling, plugs, batteries, generators, and heating equipment power sources.
Electrical Installation: Electrical installations cover all aspects of the supply, distribution and use of electrical power in the house from the consumer unit (where the electric supply connects to the wiring in the house) to the point of use at the switch or socket-outlet.
Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR): A report carried out by a skilled person that confirms that the electrical installation is satisfactory for continued use and where identified details any remedial works required.
Electrical Safety First: Electrical Safety First is a registered UK charity that campaigns on electrical safety issues. Electrical Safety First is the campaigning name of the Electrical Safety Council, a registered charity in England and Wales (No. 257376) and Scotland (No. SC039990)
The Electrical Safety in Social Rented Homes Working Group: (Also known as the SRS Electrical Safety Working Group) The Electrical Safety in Social Rented Homes Working Group was a stakeholder working group formed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to inform the content of this consultation. ‘Members’ and ‘the working group’ are also used throughout the consultation to refer to this working group.
Electrical Safety Roundtable: Electrical Safety Roundtable are an industry forum for organisations with expertise in electrical safety.
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020: The regulations require that landlords have property electrics checked at least every five years by a properly qualified person. The electrics must meet standards and landlords must give their tenants proof of this.
Electrical Safety Standards Working Group: The working group for electrical safety in the private rented sector. The group met four times in 2016 and was chaired by DLUHC officials.
English Housing Survey (EHS): A continuous national survey commissioned by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). It collects information about people’s housing circumstances and the condition and energy efficiency of housing in England.
Fire and Rescue Incident Statistics: National statistics on fires, casualties, false alarms and non-fire incidents attended by the fire and rescue services in England.
Health and Safety Executive: government agency that aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. Housing Association: Non-profit organisation set up to provide affordable homes for those in need.
Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS): A risk assessment framework for the evaluation of conditions in residential properties. For private rented sector properties, if an HHSRS assessment identifies a hazard at ‘category 1’ level, local authorities have a duty to take formal enforcement action. The HHSRS also forms part of the Decent Homes Standard, the minimum standard that social housing should meet.
Inspection: Examination of an electrical installation using all the senses as appropriate.
Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET): IET is a registered charity which represents the engineering profession. The Institution of Engineering and Technology is registered as a Charity in England & Wales (no 211014) and Scotland (no SC038698).
Local Housing Authority: In England and Wales, local housing authorities are the unitary authorities, district councils, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the London Borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London.
Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS): OPSS is the UK government’s enforcement authority for a range of goods-based and standards-based regulations.
Owner-Occupier Leaseholders: An owner-occupier leaseholder is a person who owns the property in which they live on a leasehold basis.
Portable Appliance (PAT) Testing: PAT tests are the process of checking electrical appliances for safety and can include a series of visual inspections and electronic tests. The technical name for a PAT test is In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment (ISITEE).
Private Registered Provider: A registered provider of social housing that is not a local authority. Most are housing associations.
Private Rented Sector (PRS): The housing tenure consisting of properties owned by private landlords and rented to tenants.
Residual Current Device (RCD): A safety device to prevent electric shocks from contact with live electrics (e.g. a bare wire). An RCD also offers some protection against electrical fires.
Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS): The SHQS was introduced in February 2004 and is the main way housing quality is measured in Scotland. It applies to all social landlords.
Social Housing Green Paper (SHGP): The social housing green paper was published in August 2018. It aimed to rebalance the relationship between landlords and residents, tackle stigma and ensure social housing is safe and decent.
Social Housing White Paper (SHWP): The social housing white paper was published in November 2020. It sets out the actions the government will take to ensure that residents in social housing are safe, are listened to, live in good quality homes, and have access to redress when things go wrong. It included a commitment to consult on electrical safety.
Social Landlord: A local authority landlord or private registered provider of social housing (such as a housing association).
Social Rented Sector (SRS): Homes for rent that are owned and managed by local authorities and private registered providers. This includes general needs, affordable rent and self-contained supported housing. This does not include shared ownership homes, rent to buy, or similar schemes. It also does not include other types of housing which have their own safety standards such as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), care homes, student halls of residents, hostels, hospices and other accommodation relating to healthcare provision.
Stock-Owning Local Authorities: Local authorities who own and manage their council housing. Tenancy: Agreement between a tenant and a landlord.
Tenant: Someone who rents their home from a social or private landlord, including those who own a percentage of the home and rent the remaining share from a social landlord (i.e. shared owners).
The Regulator of Social Housing: An independent regulator which regulates providers of social housing (including local authority and private registered providers). Its principal role is to promote a viable, efficient and well-governed social housing sector able to deliver homes that meet a range of needs.
1. Full analysis of the impact of proposals A and B can be found in the Impact Assessment for the Social Housing Regulation Bill [LINK to SRS Bill].
3. Overall, it is estimated that as of 2020/21, 300,000 leasehold flats have been sold where a registered provider of social housing (local authority and housing associations) is the freeholder.
4. Under this proposal, it will be mandatory to carry out electrical safety checks every five years in owner-occupier leasehold properties within social housing blocks. A breakeven analysis has been completed to illustrate the magnitude of benefits required for this policy to have a positive Net Present Social Value (NPSV).
5. We have used the value of a road traffic fatality or casualty identified by the Department for Transport (DfT) as a proxy for the cost to life in fire. The published DfT value for a fatality (over a lifetime) is £1,935,648.75 and the value given for a serious casualty is £216,074.18 (2019 prices).
6. Dividing the estimate of the total cost of installation checks, £76.41 million (PV) over 10 years, by the value of a life illustrates that 40 fire related fatalities need to be avoided over 10 years, with a low estimate of 26 and high estimate of 52 fatalities.
7. In addition, 354 fire-related casualties requiring hospital treatment need to be avoided over 10 years, with a low estimate of 236 and high estimate of 472 casualties.
8. Using the estimates of the numbers of leaseholders with a social landlord and cost estimates for carrying out electrical safety tests and the likely benefits, we identified a central scenario in which costs for installation checks would amount to around £76.5 million over the 10-year appraisal period of 2025-2034.
9. Using the central scenario, this leads to a cost per test as set out in the table below.
10. On average, if leaseholders were required to conduct an electrical safety check every five years, that would equate to a cost between £34.13 and £32.96 per year per property.
1. We announced in the Social Housing White Paper that we would consult on measures to ensure that social housing residents are protected from harm caused by poor electrical safety. Subsequently, we announced the formation of a Working Group to inform the content of the consultation.
2. The Working Group met three times between March and July 2021. The group was chaired by DLUHC (formerly MHCLG) officials and included representatives from the social sector and technical specialist groups. Meetings explored the background and evidence base on electrical safety in the social rented sector, and members were asked to help assess and devise policy options to improve safety for tenants. The Terms of Reference and a full list of the Working Group members are included below.
3. The first working group meeting focused on problem definition. Officials set out the current regulatory position and evidence base, including evidence gaps, before inviting comments from members. Subsequent meetings focused on specific areas and solutions, with the second meeting looking at electrical installations, and the third looking at electrical appliances and human factors and behaviours.
4. The aim of the Working Group was to provide a forum to discuss the best way to ensure social homes are safe in respect of electrical safety. The evidence gathered, and any recommendations from the Working Group have been used to develop policy proposals and inform the content of this consultation.
5. Government invited a range of organisations with technical expertise on electrical safety, including industry professionals and landlord representatives to join the Working Group. Meetings provided members with an opportunity to discuss the current risk posed to social rented sector residents in the home, and what solutions are required.
6. We identified three broad areas of risk to structure the work of the group.
Electrical installations – How best to ensure that electrical installations in social homes are safe, including consideration of introducing mandatory electrical safety checks with a view to bringing parity with the private rented sector.
Electrical appliances – The role government and social landlords can play in ensuring appliances are safe for use.
Behaviours/human factors – Residents’ role in keeping their home safe, and how landlords can best support this.
7. Discussions focused on these areas and how the social rented sector can best ensure residents are protected.
8. The Working Group was a government-led review, to which members contributed. Members discussed and assessed the evidence around electrical safety, focusing initially on defining the problem as things stand, before helping devise possible solutions.
9. Members were also given the opportunity to present data and evidence they had produced themselves or thought relevant. This related to the three areas identified above, specific technical solutions or innovations, current practice in the sector, landlord issues (such as access), and other relevant evidence.
Electrical Safety First Electrical Safety Roundtable National Fire Chiefs Council Institution of Engineering and Technology Certsure Association of Electrical Safety Managers Health and Safety Executive National Housing Federation G320 National Federation of ALMOs Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH)
10. We invited policy officials who hold an interest in this work from other areas of DLUHC and other government departments, to attend meetings as observers. This included representatives from the following organisations and teams:
DLUHC – Social Housing Regulation DLUHC – Private Rented Sector DLUHC – Building Safety Act Home Office – Fire Safety BEIS/Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS)
11. As well as the members and observers, anyone who wished to participate in the Working Group as a non-core participant was able to. Non-core participants received all relevant papers and had the opportunity to submit evidence for consideration at meetings.
The primary requirement for registered providers of social housing on electrical safety comes from the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, Sections 10 and 11. This includes a requirement to keep electrical installations in repair. In practice, this means landlords have an obligation to rectify faults once notified of them but does not impose a specific proactive obligation to inspect installations.
The Housing Act 2004 Part 1, Chapter 1 introduced a risk assessment regime called the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). HHSRS replaced the Fitness Standard used to risk assess hazards present in a residential property. This means all homes must be free from any Category 1 hazards including electrical hazards that render a home unfit for habitation. The government is currently reviewing the HHSRS.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force on 20 March 2019. It amended the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require all landlords (private and social) to ensure that their properties, including any common parts, are fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout. The Act does not impose any new obligations on landlords. This does however mean that residents of rented homes can take their landlord to court if their home is not fit for human habitation. This could include if it has an electrical hazard (as defined by the HHSRS) which makes it unsafe.
The Building Regulation Electrical safety: Approved Document P contains technical requirements for electrical safety when work is carried out on the electrical installation in dwellings irrespective of tenure. Requirements relate to the design and installation of electrical installations and for the certification, inspection and testing of electrical work and installations. Part P refers to BS 7671 Requirements for electrical installations (also known as the IET Wiring Regulations). These are non-statutory regulations which ‘relate principally to the design, selection, erection, inspection and testing of electrical installations, whether permanent or temporary, in and about buildings generally and to agricultural and horticultural premises, construction sites and caravans and their sites’. This means all circuits in new or rewired homes must comply with these technical requirements.
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English Housing Survey Section 2 data on non-decent homes see table AT2.3↩
Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Phase 1 Report Overview↩
Home Office, Fire statistics incident level datasets, Fire-related fatalities dataset. (Using source of ignition: cooking appliances, electrical distribution, space heating, other electrical appliances).↩
Home Office, Fire statistics data tables for 2020/21(England), Table 0605↩
According to GLA’s Report ‘Housing in London 2020’, 23% of London households were living in social rented housing. 30% of dwelling fires attended by the London Fire Brigade’s Fire Investigation Team in the last 2 years were in social rented housing. This data is reflective of London only. Unfortunately we do not hold data to provide a national-level picture of the portion of electrical fires in social housing.↩
The size of the owner-occupied sector means that a greater number of owner occupiers had experienced a fire than social and private renters combined. English Housing Survey, Fire and fire safety, 2016-17.↩
Home Office, Fire statistics data tables (England), Table 0605↩
Home Office, Fire statistics data tables (England), Table 0605 To note, the ignition power was electric.↩
Home Office, Fire statistics data tables (England), Table 0605↩
English Housing Survey data on dwelling condition and safety, Table DA5201↩
Electrical Safety First, Policy paper: ‘Improving Electrical Safety for tenants in the social rented sector in England. https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/media/mtllsfls/social-rented-sector-policy-paper-march-2021.pdf↩
EHS Headline Report 2019/20 Section 2 Stock annex Table Fig 2.2↩
EHS Headline Report 2019/20 57% of social homes were built between 1945-1980, compared to 34% of private rented homes and over 70% of social homes are more than 40 years old, compared to 73% of private rented homes. Section 2 Figure 2.2↩
NHS Hospital Accident & Emergency Activity Official Data(2014-2015; 2019-2020)↩
Deaths from exposure to Electric Current, England, 2001-2018↩
English Housing Survey, 2019 – 2020 feeling safe from fire↩
English Housing Survey, 2019 – 2020 feeling safe from fire↩
English Housing Survey, Headline Report, 2020-21↩
Electrical Safety First, Policy paper: ‘Improving Electrical Safety for tenants in the social rented sector in England. https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/media/mtllsfls/social-rented-sector-policy-paper-march-2021.pdf↩
Bevan, M and Wallace, A, 2018, ’Electrical Safety in the Social Rented Sector’, Centre for Housing Policy, University of York https://pure.york.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/electrical-safety-in-the-social-rented-sector(b2f73425-b94c-49dd-b04f-782f90ab1c59).html↩
Building safety risks are currently defined as the spread of fire and structural failure↩
Home Office, Fire Safety Government Consultation, 2020↩
Under The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 Sections 10 and 11↩
Under The Housing Act 2004 (England and Wales) Part 1, Chapter 1, Section 1↩
Regulation of Social Housing’s Home Standard↩
Social Housing, Electrical Safety Roundtable↩
Electrical Safety Roundtable, 2019, ’Code of Practice for the Management of Electrotechnical Care in Social Housing’↩
C1, C2 and FI are classification codes. For more information please refer to page 9 of Electrical Safety First’s Best Practice Guide 4 (Issue 4) ’Electrical installation condition reporting: Classification Codes for domestic and similar electrical installations‘ (2015).↩
English Housing Survey, Profile and condition of the English housing stock 2018-19↩
Home Office, Fire statistics data tables, FIRE0605. ’Electrical distribution’ used for ignition source.↩
Based on how many social homes have all five electrical safety features installed. English Housing Survey data on dwelling condition and safety. DA5201: disrepair and electrics – dwellings↩
End Furniture Poverty analysed Understanding Society data, which suggested 2% of social housing tenancies are offered furnished or part furnished. University of Essex, Institute for Social and Economic Research. Understanding Society: Waves 1-11, 2009-2020 and Harmonised BHPS: Waves 1-18, 1991-2009. (data collection). 15th Edition. UK Data Service, 2022 (Accessed 15 March 2022). Available from: DOI: 10.5255/UKDA-SN-6614-16↩
Health and Safety Executive, 2013, HSG107 (Third Edition) ’Maintaining portable electrical equipment’ The HSE is a UK government Executive Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) responsible for workplace health and safety and their recommendation for PAT frequency relates exclusively to the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. This has been used to inform the government’s recommendation for PAT testing in social homes.↩
This would mirror the Scottish requirements.↩
Home Office, Fire statistics data tables, (England) FIRE0605.↩
Home Office, Fire statistics data tables,(England) FIRE0605. White goods used: fridge/freezer, washing machine, washer/dryer, tumble dryer, dishwasher.↩
Bevan, M and Wallace, A, 2018, ’Electrical Safety in the Social Rented Sector’, Centre for Housing Policy, University of York↩
Electrical Safety First Social Housing Access Infographic↩
BS 7671:2018 Requirements for Electrical Installations, p37↩
The Institution of Engineering and Technology, EAS 21-482 Rev B, Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS) Qualifications Guide, 2021↩
The Institution of Engineering and Technology, EAS 21-478 ’Electrotechnical Assessment Specification for use by Certification and Registration bodies’ Appendix 10↩
Health and Safety Executive, Guidance on PAT - Portable Appliance Testing FAQs↩
Statistical Research Department, 2020, ‘Number of electricians and electrical fitters in the United Kingdom (UK) 2010-2019↩
Pye Tait Consulting, 2019, The Electrotechnical Skills Partnership Labour Market Intelligence Research↩
London’s Right to Buy Back programme is a programme allowing councils and council-owned housing companies to acquire homes that will then be let at social rent levels or used as accommodation for homeless families. For more information see Right to buy back to boost council home supply.↩
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