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Whitehall commits to five-year electrical safety check law

The government will also publish new guidance outlining responsibilities for ensuring safe electrical systems in homes

A government commitment to require mandatory electrical safety checks every five years for systems introduced to rented properties is to be introduced into law as soon as “parliamentary time allows”.

The proposed amendments, which are intended to be introduced in a phased process that will begin with new tenancies, will require landlords to ensure accredited checks are made on electrical installations in their properties over a five year period. Failure to comply will see landlords facing as yet to be determined penalties.

The government’s commitments were made in response to a public consultation held last year on electrical safety in buildings. The response also includes commitments to provide new guidance around minimum levels of competence and qualifications for anyone carrying out inspections.

This focus on rethinking electrical safety in rented properties is part of efforts to reform the UK’s building regulations to meet wide ranging concerns raised in an independent review of standards by Dame Judith Hackitt. The findings from the Hackitt report, commissioned in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, were published last year with a warning that existing regulations were not fit for purpose.

Steve Martin, technical director for the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), said the government’s pledge to introduce regular electrical checks was a significant step to ensuring confidence in a building and its electric systems. However, he noted that some practical challenges lay ahead for any new regulation to be successful.

Mr Martin added, “An important test will lie in the enforcement regime, and it is vital that those with oversight, such as councils, have the tools they need to ensure landlords follow the law. It is now key that the government puts these plans into law at the nearest opportunity.”

MP Heather Wheeler, minister for housing and homelessness said that more initiatives were needed to protect tenants from unsafe housing.

She said, “These new measures will reduce the risk of faulty electrical equipment, giving people peace of mind and helping to keep them safe in their homes.”

“It will also provide clear guidance to landlords on who they should be hiring to carry out these important electrical safety checks.”

Ms Wheeler said the new guidance is designed to create accountability throughout the inspection process over the legal requirements for ensuring electrical safety and where responsibility lies at each stage.

An upcoming response from government to the social housing green paper consultation will set out similar safety requirements for properties outside of the private rented sector.

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