If you are a Landlord with a property to rent to tenants, it’s important you make sure the building is safe for them to occupy and has undergone all of the vital health and safety checks.
One of the most important checks that needs to be carried out on properties is electrical testing.
A recent article in the Evening Standard highlighted a study conducted by the Electrical Safety Council. The study exposed the fact that private landlords are risking the lives of tenants by not carrying out basic health and safety obligations, with poor electrical testing posing a major risk.
Electrical accidents are the cause of more than 350,000 serious injuries each year and cause more than half of all accidental house fires.
Most accidents in the home are caused by faults or misused domestic appliances, flexes, plugs or connectors. A large proportion of accidents are caused by poor electrical maintenance or DIY activities. The most serious dangers to health arise from electrical accidents such as shock, burns, electrical explosion, fire, and mechanical movements initiated by electricity.
The causes of these incidents vary but can include:
- Deterioration of the electrical installation parts;
- Broken appliance or installation accessories and equipment;
- Misuse of the installation and appliances;
- Poor and infrequent testing and maintenance
Landlords are required to ensure that electrical installations and appliances are maintained and in a safe condition with minimal risk of injury or death to humans, and minimal risk of damage to the property.
Electrical installations are:
All fixed electrical equipment that is supplied through the electricity meter, including cables that are usually hidden in the fabric of the building (walls and ceilings), accessories (sockets, switches and light fittings), and the consumer unit (fusebox) that contains all the fuses or circuit-breakers.
Electrical appliances are:
Any devices added to the property that use electricity to perform a function. For instance, lamp, toaster, oven, kettle, microwave, washing machine, dishwasher etc.
Any electrical appliances installed by the Landlord are the Landlords’ responsibility and they must make sure they are correctly tested, safe, and fit for purpose.
Appliances supplied by the Landlord should either be brand new or checked by a qualified electrician before the property is rented to tenants and all paperwork (i.e. receipts, warranties, inspection certificates) should be kept for a minimum period of six years.
All appliances and installations supplied should be marked with the appropriate CE symbol (which is the manufacturer’s claim that it meets all the requirements of European law).
What Does The Law Say?
The Landlords and Tenants Act 1985 requires that the electrical installation in a rented property is:
- safe when a tenancy begins and
- maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy.
The landlord cannot make the tenant responsible for repairs associated with electrical appliances and installation that the Landlord has provided.
Fire Alarm Safety
It is vital that Landlords take all precautionary steps to reduce the risk of fire causing injury or death to tenants. Therefor, Landlords need to ensure that there is the correct type of fully functioning fire alarm system and emergency lighting installed in the property to protect tenants. The type of system required depends on the type of building, its use and the type of tenant(s) occupying the building.
Like all other electrical installations and appliances, a fire alarm system and lighting system will also need to be periodically inspected and tested by a registered electrician.
The frequency of the essential inspections will also depend on the grade of system installed and landlords should seek advice from a qualified and registered person with adequate knowledge of fire detection and fire alarm systems.
Undergoing Electrical Tests
In order to meet the legal requirements for electrical testing, a landlord will need to carry out regular basic safety checks to ensure that the electrical installation and appliances are safe and working correctly.
All electrical installations deteriorate over time, especially those which are used more frequently than others. Periodic Inspections detect and test the condition of existing electrical installations, to identify any deficiencies against the National Standard (BS 7671).
Periodic inspections and testing should:
- reveal if any of electrical circuits or equipment are overloaded
- detect any potential electrical shock risks and fire hazards in electrical installation
- identify any defective DIY electrical work
- identify any lack of earthing or bonding
- identify departures from the National standard (BS 7671)
- test all portable appliances and accessories are working correctly
Following the inspection, an Electrical Installation Condition Report is issued detailing any identified damage, deterioration, risks which will then need to be addressed by the Landlord immediately.
Who Should Carry Out An Electrical Inspection?
Electrical installation work and periodic inspections must only be carried out by specialists with the correct knowledge and expertise. This is to ensure the job is done correctly as well as avoiding any danger to the installer and others. Landlords should only use an electrician who is registered with a government-approved scheme.
Registered electricians are approved to carry out domestic electrical installation work in line with Building Regulations. They will also manage any paperwork associated with the installation. This benefits the Landlord as it saves time and in most cases the work will be covered by an insurance warranty.
Before instructing an electrician to carry out an electric installation, periodic inspection or appliance test, check with the board they registered with to confirm they are able to carry out the work needed for your property.
What can Landlords do?
Although a Landlord cannot check the electric installations, regular basic safety checks can be carried out within the property, to ensure that portable appliances continue to be safe for use. These should be carried out before any new tenants move in as well as during a tenants’ occupancy.
Most dangerous electrical appliance defects can be identified by carrying out a visual inspection, however, this is an extra precaution and should never replace a formal inspection carried out by an electrician.
These are some appliance checks that the Landlord or occupant can safely carry out:
- check that there are no cuts in the cable covering (sheath);
- check if any plugs have cracked casing or bent pins;
- check that there are no loose parts or screws;
- check that there is no sign of burning in the plug;
- check the outer covering of any cables is gripped by the cord grip in the plug top so that no coloured cable cores are visible from outside of the plug.
- check that no part of an appliance is damaged or missing.
How Often Does A Property Need Electrical Testing?
Rented accommodation should undergo periodic inspections and testing at least every 5 years, however, the Institution of Electrical Engineers recommends formal inspections and tests should be carried every 5 years in addition to before every new tenant moves in.
What Happens If You Fail Electrical Testing?
Following the inspection, an Electrical Installation Condition Report is issued detailing any identified damage, deterioration, risks.
If anything dangerous or potentially dangerous is found during the electrical inspection and test, the condition of the electrical installation will be declared as ‘unsatisfactory’. This means the Landlord must take immediate action to rectify any issues and remove the risks to tenants.
If a member of the local authority decides to carry out an assessment on your property and determines there is a hazard, a decision is then made on the most appropriate action required to reduce or minimise a risk occupants.
Failure to follow the enforced requirements is a criminal offence and can be punished by fines or imprisonment.
Do you have the right Landlord insurance for your property? Are you protected from potentially expensive third party claims or damage costs?