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Industry group disowns 'death' comments after Private Eye story

At the end of an already-challenging week for the industry, a landlord group has distanced itself from comments made in its name which belittle eight deaths in private rental accommodation allegedly caused by faulty electrical installation.

Private Eye magazine carries a report which begins by saying: “You might think a simple change in the law that saves lives would enjoy unanimous support” and goes to explain a late amendment to the Housing and Planning Act that would require private landlords to conduct electricity safety checks every five years.

The piece then goes on to quote from the Residential Landlords Association’s response to government consultation on the subject. 

It quotes sections of the RLA response suggesting that five-yearly checks for all private rentals are “wholly unnecessary and in reality just a way of ‘drumming up’ a steady stream of work for electricians.” 

The selected quotes go on to say that the RLA says such checks in non-HMO private rental properties are “jobs for the boys” and “an over-reaction.”

Then Private Eye quotes what it calls the clinching argument put forward by the RLA: “With eight deaths only caused by installations in 2011/12 there is absolutely no justification at all in our view for the additional costs and effort required as a result of having tests on the installation required at five-yearly intervals.”

In addition to the publicity these comments received from their exposure in Private Eye, they have been tweeted and retweeted by many people, and have attracted numerous critical comments. 

A response to the Private Eye story from the RLA, again distributed by some social media users on Twitter, falls short of any apology but says the comments were not association policy. 

There is no explanation how the views were made in the RLA’s name without someone stopping them if they were not representative of the organisation’s view.

The RLA response reads: 

Responding to an article in Private Eye on electrical safety in private rented housing, Alan Ward, Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association said: 

“Every loss of life is a tragedy, whatever the cause.

“The quote attributed to the RLA does not reflect the Association’s views. It formed part of a technical assessment of deaths and injuries caused by different electrical sources.

“The RLA believes it is wrong to minimise the seriousness of deaths as a result of electrical safety faults, whatever number that might be.

“We believe that Residual Current Devices (RCDS) that switch off electricity automatically if there is a fault should be a standard feature of private rented housing and are more effective than a one-off check every few years. They can be a life saver and figures show that as more have been used there has been a decline in the number of electrical shock injuries.”

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