Welsh Tenants were pleased to be a partner in the calls for better electrical safety in rented homes in Wales led by Electrical Safety First (previously Council) Director General Phil Buckle and his team.
The Welsh Tenants worked with a number of organisations in 2014 to raise awareness of the need to address home safety issues under #saferhomes. That call was further elucidated at a round table even held recently at the National Assembly.
Welsh Tenants’ association with Electrical Safety First dates back to 2013 when mutual concerns were expressed for the rise in vulnerable people having to access the largely unregulated private rented sector which led to ESF being invited to the Welsh Tenants conference.
That relationship has developed and we were pleased to be invited to speak at the National Assembly round table meeting organised by ESF and chaired by Swansea East Assembly Member Mike Hedges AM.
The event attended by British Gas, representatives of the fire services of Wales, Environmental health officers, Residential Landlord Association among others, heard how the time had come to consider the introduction of 5 year electrical safety checks by private landlords in Wales.
Phil Buckle highlighted that the costs of 5 year electrical safety checks would be little more than £3 per month if it was agreed to put into statue a mandatory 5 year check. Doing so, he added, would be good for landlords as well as tenants, as claims against insurance could be invalidated if it was proven that landlords had not undertaken their responsibilities to ensure the property was safe to rent.
Welsh Tenants Managing Director Steve Clarke invited to speak at the event stated that a 5 year mandatory check is a low cost – high impact measure that could save the NHS in Wales some serious money.
Steve acknowledged that a great deal had already been achieved by the Welsh government in raising standards of home safety since 2003 with the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) in the social housing sector. Upgraded residual circuit devices (RCD boards) provided vital protection against electrocution. He also added that the private rented sector had also made a significant contribution as Buy-to-let mortgages were often coupled with major improvement works that improved standards for renters.
But he also warned that both sectors were under pressure to make better use of existing stock, citing that in the social housing sector, the taking in of lodgers as recommended by the DWP due to the bedroom tax, could increase household risks in properties not designed for multiple family living. While social landlords by virtue of schedule 14 of the Housing Act 2004 are provided an exemption from the protection of 5 year mandatory checks as required of registered Houses of Multiple Occupation in the private rented sector. There is, he said, a real prospect of more family homes being converted into HMO’s in all but name under shared accommodation, and the drive to provide more single person accommodation could mean tenants not being afforded the protection that PRS HMOs have to provide.
The argument for a 5 year mandatory check were supported by British Gas, who graphically demonstrated some of the horrendous electrical wiring scenes on visits by their engineers.
Mike Hedges AM expressed his support for the initiative having been a beneficiary of the protection of modern RCD boards when accidentally cutting through his hedge trimmer. There was, he stated, a compelling opportunity to provide better protection for people whom rent in Wales, adding, he was pleased to be supporting the recommendation.