Landlord electrical safety certificate
As a landlord, you must take all reasonable steps to keep your tenants safe. This means you must make sure the electrical installation (wiring, lighting systems, etc.) and any electrical equipment you've provided are safe when the tenancy begins and throughout.
Property expert Kate Faulkner outlines the electrical safety regulations for landlords, including information on how to obtain an electrical safety certificate.
- The importance of electrical testing
- Landlord electrical safety certificate - legal requirements
- How much does a landlord electrical safety certificate cost?
- PAT testing for landlords
- Landlord responsibilities in Scotland
- 'Best practice', as recommended by Electrical Safety First
- Landlord safety checks - key legal requirements for England, Wales, Scotland
Electrical testing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
Now that most areas have freedom of movement in the UK, you do need to do as much as possible to fulfil your legal requirements as a landlord. However, if a localised area has been locked down or your rented property can't be accessed because someone has been told to self-isolate, or indeed is ill with COVID-19, you need to keep documentation that shows your efforts to abide by the law and keep your tenants informed in writing.
The Government says, "We are encouraging local authorities and other enforcement agencies to take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to enforcement in these unprecedented times."
In Scotland, the Government had placed a temporary postponement on electrical checks in privately rented properties, but their current recommendation to landlords is to:
"make every effort to abide by electrical and other fuel safety requirements, which continue to be of great importance for tenants' safety."
The importance of electrical testing
According to Electrical Safety First, electricity is the cause of more than 20,000 fires in UK homes each year, so it's vital to take it seriously. Fires, burns and shocks can be caused by:
- Gradual deterioration of the electrical installation and equipment
- Damage to switches, sockets and other equipment
- Misuse of the installation and equipment
- Poor maintenance
If your tenant gets injured (or worse) because you've neglected the electrics in your property, you could face heavy fines or even prison. Electrical testing is not particularly time consuming or expensive (unless extensive works are required to bring electrics up to standard), so there's no excuse for not fulfilling your obligations.
Landlord electrical safety certificate - legal requirements
Until 2020, an electrical safety check on privately-rented properties in England was only mandatory for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
Landlords of HMOs must have the electrical installation in the property inspected and tested at least once every five years and undertake any necessary works as detailed on the Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR). The council can request to see a copy of that report at any time.
However, for 'standard' single-let properties, the rules have so far been open to interpretation, with the law simply saying that the landlord must ensure the electrics are safe.
But, following a consultation in 2019, the Government announced plans to introduce mandatory 5-year checks for all properties in the PRS in England, under The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020:
- For all new tenancies granted from the 1 June 2020, electrical installations must be inspected and tested by a qualified person before the tenancy begins.
- The installation must be inspected and tested at least every five years - more often if specified on the report.
- For existing tenancies, this new law will apply from 1 April 2021 - i.e. you must have the inspection and test carried out before this date.
- A copy of the written report must be given to each tenant:
- For new tenancies, before the tenant moves in
- For existing tenancies, within 28 days of the inspection
- If further investigations or repairs are required, they must be completed by a qualified person within 28 days of the inspection.
- For HMOs, the new legislation replaces the existing requirements.
- The report must be retained and a copy given to the person undertaking the next inspection.
If your local authority requests a copy of the report, you must supply it to them within 7 days.
Landlords who break the law can be fined up to £30,000 by the local authority for each breach of the regulations - i.e. you could face multiple penalties. So, make sure you understand your obligations and book a test in good time, as there is bound to be huge demand over the next year.
You can find a suitably-qualified electrician via Electrical Safety First or the Electrical Safety Register. Anyone carrying out electrical work should be registered with NICEIC or a member of NAPIT and be 'Part P' registered.
How much does a landlord electrical safety certificate cost?
The 'certificate' is a written report - usually an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) - which details:
- The results of the inspection
- Any components that don't meet regulations
- Any damage or wear and tear that might affect safety
- Any appliance or object that could cause electric shocks or high temperatures
You should expect to pay between £100 and £150 plus VAT in most areas for the inspection and report, assuming no other work is required.
PAT testing for landlords
According to Electrical Safety First, nine out of ten electrical fires are caused by faulty appliances, with cooking and laundry appliances at the top of the list. So, it's worth making portable appliance tests every one or two years.
The test should be carried out on any movable electrical appliance that plugs into a socket to make sure it's not damaged, not dangerous and won't give your tenants an electric shock.
Note: You're only responsible for the electrical appliances you've provided, so don't need to test anything the tenants have brought into the property themselves.
Landlord responsibilities in Scotland
Landlords in Scotland must ensure that regular electrical safety inspections are carried out by a competent person, and anything that fails the inspection is replaced or repaired immediately.
The minimum legal requirements:
- Landlords must have an electrical safety inspection:
- Before any tenancy starts, and
- At intervals of no more than five years during a tenancy
- Landlords are responsible for ensuring the person completing the report is suitably competent. That will usually be an electrician registered with NICEIC, a member firm of SELECT or a member of NAPIT.
- A copy of the most recent EICR must be given to the tenant at the start of the tenancy
PAT testing in Scotland
A portable appliance test (PAT) is carried out as part of the 5-yearly inspection but it is advisable to have more regular PAT tests as a matter of best practice. These can be carried out by either a registered electrician or anyone who has completed appropriate training, including the landlord themselves.
Anything that fails a PAT test must be replaced or repaired immediately.
'Best practice', as recommended by Electrical Safety First
Although these aren't a legal requirement, landlords are encouraged to:
- Make visual checks of the electrics, including appliances, at each change of tenancy
- Have electrical appliances PAT-tested regularly - commonly every one or two years, which should be specified in the tenancy agreement
- Have RCDs installed (a safety device that switches off electricity automatically if there is a fault, to prevent anyone getting a fatal electric shock)
Landlords should also advise tenants of basic electrical safety measures, including:
- Turn off appliances when they're not being used, particularly at night
- Switch off and unplug hand-held appliances after use - particularly if they might overheat, e.g. hair straighteners
- Don't overload sockets or extension cables
- Take care not to cover heaters
And, of course, it's worth considering specialist landlord insurance for your property to cover you against the cost of damage from fire.
Landlord safety checks - key legal requirements for England, Wales, Scotland
- From 1 June 2020, for all new private tenancies granted: electrical installations must be inspected and tested by a qualified person before the tenancy begins and at five-year intervals
- From 1 April 2021, the above applies to all tenancies
- The electrician must be suitably qualified
- Each tenant must be supplied with a copy of the report
- Any required repairs or further investigations must be carried out within 28 days
- There is currently no specific legal requirement for periodical electrical inspection or testing of non-HMO properties
- Landlords must ensure the electrical installation and any appliances supplied are safe when the tenancy begins and are maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy
- Rent Smart Wales and Electrical Safety First recommend an inspection and test is carried out by a registered electrician at least every five years, and before any new tenant moves in. If an inspection has been carried out, a copy of the report should be made available to tenants.
- HMOs must have a full electrical inspection and test every five years
- A full electrical safety inspection must be carried out every five years, including a PAT test on all electrical equipment provided by the landlord
- The electrician must be suitably competent
- The tenant must be provided with a copy of the most recent report
Kate Faulkner is one of the UK's leading, independent property experts and regularly features in major newspapers, on the BBC and ITV, as well as regularly co-hosting the Property Show on LBC.