What are the electrical safety regulations for landlords?
Landlords are responsible for electrical safety in their properties. Kate Faulkner breaks down these electrical safety responsibilities and regulations.
Electrical safety in a rented property is extremely important. It can be a major source of fire outbreaks and you, as a landlord, have a responsibility to do all you can to protect your tenant.
You have a legal duty to ensure the property you're letting out, and any electrical equipment provided, is safe – both before a tenancy begins and throughout its duration. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 is the main legislation for landlords in England and Wales, with 'Part P' of Building Regulations also applying. In Scotland it's The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006.
There are certain electrical checks that you're legally required to carry out on the electrical system itself and others that you're simply strongly advised to carry out. Electrical regulations are currently something of a grey area, with a number of things open to interpretation.
Here, we look at what is considered 'best practice', as recommended by Electrical Safety First and much of the lettings industry.
Carrying out a landlord electrical safety check
If you don't use 'Part P' registered electrician, you will need to notify your local authority building control department before any work begins. To make sure you're always complying with the law, it's best to use a 'Part P' registered electrician every time, even for very minor works.
An electrical installation certificate (EIC) must be obtained for every new electrical installation, with a Domestic Electrical Installation Certificate (DEIC) designed specifically for electrics in a home. Under English law, electrical safety certification has to be carried out by a third party, so not the same person who installed it. Although not currently law for Wales and Scotland, it's probably worth always using a third party because it shows you have taken every care to ensure the integrity of the test.
Once an installation has been given its original check and certified, you need to have it inspected and tested periodically no more than every five years. However, depending on their findings, the electrician conducting the inspection and providing the Electrical Installation Condition Report might require testing to be carried out sooner. That date will be specified on the report.
If your property is a House in Multiple Occupation, your local authority may issue a request to see evidence of current electrical certification. If you receive such a request in writing, you must supply them with a valid EIC or EICR within 7 days.
If you've provided any electrical equipment in the property – such as a fridge/freezer, kettle or lamps – it must be kept in a safe condition. Although there's currently no legal obligation, it's advisable to have a Portable Appliance Test (PAT) carried out either annually or between tenancies. There is no certificate for this as such, but you should obtain written confirmation from the electrician of what has been tested and the result. In Scotland, the PAT is a legal requirement.
Electrical Safety First recommends that any appliance you provide for your tenant should bear the British Standard Kitemark or the 'BEAB Approved' mark (British Electrotechnical Approvals Board). At the very least, it should carry a CE Mark, which is the manufacturer's claim that it meets the minimum requirements of EU legislation. You should also issue the tenants with copies of instruction manuals, to help ensure they use all electrical appliances properly.
Finally, when it comes to a change of tenancies, while no formal inspection or certification is required, it's best that you or your representative carry out a visual check to make sure the property is safe to re-let. It should include the checks below:
- Check for broken or missing switches or sockets
- Make sure there are no accessible live parts
- Ensure any installed RCDs operate when the test button is pressed
- Check the cables and plugs of all electrical appliances to make sure they have not sustained any damage, such as cuts, cracking or loose pins
- Make sure no part of any electrical appliance is damaged or missing.
The potential consequences of not maintaining electrical safety
Research from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) estimates each year around 20 people die due to electrocution and/or fatal electric burns suffered at home. It also revealed that there are around 20,000 accidental electrical fires, causing around 50 deaths and 3,500 injuries.
Electric shock, fire and burns can be suffered as a result of:
- Gradual deterioration of the electrical installation and equipment
- Damage to switches, sockets and other equipment
- Misuse of the installation and equipment
- Poor maintenance
But as long as you carry out all of the legally required and advised measures, you should be able to almost completely eliminate these risks. If, however, you don't, the results can be devastating.
If your tenant suffers injury or dies as a result of your neglect of electrical safety, you can face heavy fines or even prison, not to mention the emotional toll it could take on you. The electrical testing and checks are not terribly time consuming or expensive, unless extensive works to bring electrics up to standard are needed. As such, there really is no excuse for not keeping on top of them.
Here is a summary of the checks you should be making:
|When||Inspection / certification required||Carried out by|
|On completion of any electrical installation work||Domestic Electrical Installation Certificate (DEIC)||Third party 'Part P' registered electrician (Scotland: NICEIC or SELECT)|
|Annually||Portable Appliance Test (PAT)||'Part P' registered electrician (Scotland: NICEIC or SELECT)|
|At intervals of not more than 5 years, or as advised on current DEIC||Domestic Electrical Installation Certificate (DEIC)||'Part P' registered electrician (Scotland: NICEIC or SELECT)|
|On change of tenancy||Visual check||Landlord or their representative|
And if you have any concerns or queries about electrical safety in your property, the Electrical Safety First website has all the regulations and a useful interim checklist you can download: http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/guides-and-advice/for-landlords.