MINISTERS are being urged to back mandatory five yearly checks of all privately rented homes to prevent the thousands of fires caused by electrical faults every year in Scotland.
An open letter signed by Shelter Scotland, NUS, Citizens Advice Scotland, the Scottish Association of Landlords, and the Electrical Safety Council calls for the measure to be included in the SNP government’s Housing Bill.
The bill creates a new housing tribunal to deliver a faster resolution of disputes in the private rented sector, as well as launching a regulatory framework for letting agents.
However, the campaigners want the bill to include five yearly checks by a registered electrician of all privately rented homes with electrical installations and any appliances supplied with them.
Scottish government figures show that over two thirds of all accidental fires in Scottish homes - more than 3,000 annually - are caused by electricity faults.
Private renters often “face poor conditions and serious safety hazards” in homes, the letter to ministers claims.
The groups also claim that private tenants are more likely to be at “risk of electric shock or fire than owner occupiers” as they call for a shake-up in safety laws for rented homes.
Ministers are told that “more must be done to reduce risks to private renters” with tighter regulations on electrical equipment in privately rented homes.
The signatories to the letter, who also include Energy Action Scotland and Home Safety Scotland, claim the changes could be delivered “without placing a significant additional burden on landlords”
They suggest that the new rules would not be too costly and that the government could help fund some of the safety improvements.
The number of Scots renting their homes from private landlords stands at more than 300,000 - a doubling of the figure in the last decade, the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) claims.
The ESC, which is leading the campaign for a safety shake-up, is calling on ministers to back the changes ahead of this week’s SNP conference in Perth.
Scottish Tory housing spokesman Alex Johnstone backed the call, but said ministers had to cooperate with private landlords to deliver the changes on the “basis of a consensus”.
He said: “This campaign demonstrates the willingness on the part of the private sector to raise the safety standards of rental homes and is very much to be welcomed.
“The housing bill present an opportunity to raise standards, but the Scottish government must work with the private sector and not enforce soundbite measures for the sake of it.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman defended the administration’s record on improving the quality of privately rented homes.
The spokeswoman said: “The safety of private rented sector tenants is of great importance to the Scottish Government and we support the improvement of conditions in this sector.
“We recently made a new tenant information pack available so that all tenants in privately rented homes receive the same minimum standard of information.
“We also recently published our private rented sector strategy and are developing plans outlined in our sustainable housing strategy to consult with private landlords and other interested organisations later this year on developing a common quality standard of which home safety will be an integral element.
“We will continue to work with the sector on the introduction of further provisions.”