A guide to electrical safety for landlords
From 1 July this year, it is likely that landlords in England will need to arrange an electrical inspection and condition report (EICR) for their property before they sign a new tenancy or renew an existing one. The EICR must be conducted by a competent person. For existing tenancies, an EICR will need to be in place by 1 April 2021.
With around 30 people a year dying, and thousands more injured, as a result of burns and electrical shocks, the change in the law is aimed at protecting tenants from the dangers posed by faulty electrics.
The vast majority of landlords already have their properties inspected regularly by a qualified electrician. The change in the law will make this a legal requirement and mean you will need to give copies of the report to your tenants, when they move in and whenever the EICR is repeated (this should be at least every five years).
The legislation required to make these electrical inspections mandatory is still to pass through parliament, and some of the details are sketchy. However, electrical safety is an important responsibility for landlords and one you should take seriously. We look at the rules and best practice in the area of all things electric.
Electrical safety inspections for the property
Under the new regulations, private landlords are required to ensure that:
- electrical safety standards are met during any period when the residential premises are occupied under a specified tenancy, and
- every electrical installation is inspected and tested at regular intervals by a suitably qualified person (regular intervals means at intervals of no more than five years).
Once the electrical installation has been tested, the landlord must obtain a written report, which includes the results and the date of the next inspection.
You should supply a copy of the report to any existing tenants, within 28 days of the inspection, and to all new tenants.
If a fault, or potential fault, is identified, this must be investigated further and repaired within 28 days – or sooner if the report recommends this.
The regulations apply to all properties in the private rented sector, including houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
What is a competent person?
Carrying out electrical inspections is a complex task. The law says that you must use a ‘competent’ and ‘qualified’ person for electrical work on your rental property but doesn’t stipulate what their qualifications should be.
If you’re not sure, get advice from an electrician who is registered with a government-approved scheme. You can find registered electricians on the Electrical Safety First website.
What are the penalties for not doing this?
Local authorities have a duty to take action against landlords who breach the rules and can impose financial penalties of up to £30,000.
What does the law already say about electrical safety?
- You must make sure that all the electrics in a rented property, including sockets, wiring and light fittings are safe when your tenants move in and that they are maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy.
- Five-yearly electrical installation checks are already mandatory for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
- Any electrical appliances you provide, such as fridges, washing machines and ovens, must also be safe and have the manufacturer’s CE marking – which means that they meet European safety standards. You must remove any appliances, which don’t meet this standard.
- Under building regulations, certain electrical jobs, such as the installation of new circuits and fuse boxes, must be notified to building control and carried out by an electrician registered with a competent person scheme. If you aren’t sure whether electrical works are notifiable, contact your local authority building control team.
- You must follow the rules about fire safety, such as making sure you install the correct smoke alarms, keep escape routes clear and supply fire-safe furnishings. Read more on the gov.uk website.
What else should I do?
In addition to your EICR, you should conduct a visual inspection of the property’s electrical installation and appliances between tenancies.
What should I be looking for on my visual inspection?
Your visual inspection should be looking for danger signs such as overheating or damaged wires, sockets and plugs.
Having done a visual inspection, if you have any concerns about certain pieces of equipment, you should have them checked immediately by a qualified electrician or replace them.
You should also:
- Make sure that you provide enough electrical sockets for your tenants’ needs – this will avoid them bringing their own adaptors and extension cables, which could be dangerous. Remember that the number of sockets used by households in the digital age has increased dramatically.
- Give your tenants copies of the instruction manuals for all appliances to make sure they can use them safely and efficiently.
- Don’t necessarily opt for the cheapest when buying white goods and other appliances. Read reviews and look for the best value, prioritising safety. Make sure you register any new appliances with the manufacturer – that way you will be informed of any product recalls or safety warnings.
Portable appliance testing (PAT)
It is not compulsory, but is good practice, to carry out portable appliance (PAT) testing on your electrical appliances. PAT Testing involves checking the appliances for safety through both visual inspections and electronic tests.
How often should I check the appliances?
Carry out PAT tests annually or between tenancies. Keep a log of the PAT tests and attach test labels to the appliances.
What is a portable appliance?
Portable appliances are any appliances which can be moved (even with difficulty) and have a cable and plug. They include kettles, toasters, TVs and white goods.
You are not responsible for appliances supplied by your tenant. However, it is in your interest to make sure that anything used in the property is safe and legal so make your tenants aware of the risks. There is information about safe appliance use from the Health and Safety Executive.
Do I need to have a qualified electrician test each appliance?
Any electrical work should be carried out by a competent person with the necessary skills and experience. Many registered electricians will carry out PAT testing.
Find out more
If you are new to letting out a property or are looking to move to a new letting agent in the Newington Green, Stoke Newington or Islington area, contact M&M Property today. We’d be happy to run through your legal obligations regarding electrical safety or other landlord issues.