Landlords and Electrical Safety

There are currently no laws that state a landlord or letting agent must have an annual electrical safety checks, so it’s not quite as cut and dried as Gas Safety regulations in rental properties,  but in nearly all cases their requirements only state that systems and equipment must be safely installed and safely maintained.

Failure to provide safely installed and maintained electrical appliances can lead to prosecution as it is a criminal offence. Possibly penalties for failing to comply are as follows:

  • Your property insurance may be invalidated
  • A fine of £5,000 per item not complying
  • Six month’s imprisonment
  • The Tenant may also sue you for civil damages
  • Possible manslaughter charges in the even of deaths

These regulations are enforced by the Health & Safety Executive. To avoid legal prosecution, it is advisable for landlords to have periodic checks done by a qualified electrician.

The Electrical Safety Regulations

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, The Housing Act 2004, The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994, and the Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994, both of which come under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, there is an obligation to ensure that all electrical equipment is safe. Moreover, under Part P of the Building Regulations, it is a requirement that certain types of electrical work in dwellings, garages, sheds, greenhouses and outbuilding also comply with the standards.

In all cases, a competent electrician must carry out the work. In order for the landlord to perform DIY electrical work, he must belong to one of the Government’s approved Competent Person Self-Certification schemes or submit a building notice to the local authority before doing the work himself.

Electrical Safety measures landlords should take:

The rule of thumb with any safety aspects in a rental property is, manage your property well and the risks are minimal, but manage it badly and risks are high. Landlords are advised to make visual inspections and have periodic checks carried out by a qualified electrician.

Here are a few safety procedures that should be followed:

  • Keep supplied appliances to a minimum.
  • Ensure that all fuses are of the correct type and rating.
  • Make sure appliances supplied are complete and in working order – keep purchase receipts.
  • Ensure that flexes are in good order and properly attached to appliances and plugs.
  • Ensure that earth tags are in place.
  • Make a note of all fuse ratings on the inventory.
  • Ensure that plugs are of an approved type with sleeved live and neutral pins.
  • Ensure that plugs and sockets conform to BS1363 or BS1363/A for heavy duty uses.
  • Pay particular attention to second hand equipment – always have these items checked.
  • Ensure that operating instructions and safety warning notices are supplied with the appliances.
  • Make sure that tenants know the location of and have access to the main consumer unit, fuses and isolator switch.
Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) in rental accommodation

Portable Appliance Testing (commonly known as PAT or PAT Inspection or PAT Testing) is a process in which electrical appliances are routinely checked for safety. The correct term for the whole process is In-service Inspection & Testing of Electrical Equipment.

  • If the property is an HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) you are required by law to provide yearly PAT (portable appliance testing) certificates for all appliances.
  • Any second hand equipment MUST be PAT tested by law. That’s why charity shops no longer accept electrical goods – it would cost them too much to administer!
  • Technically, any equipment returned from service or repair MUST be PAT tested and carry the requisite sticker
Extra notes
  • Upgrading to 17th edition RCD’s (residual current device) to replace older style fuse boards can be done quite cheaply (certainly less than a law suit) and will provide electrical shock protection. The RCD will trip when there is a leak to earth from either live or neutral (i.e. you touching a live connection or under other fault conditions). The MCB will trip when there is a short circuit overload or when the circuit draws much more power than it should (a tenant connecting a fire into a lighting circuit perhaps). Newer boards have dual RCD’s each protecting a group of MCB’s to ensure the whole installation does not shut down when a fault occurs. The most modern form of protection is a combined RCD/MCB called a RCBO (Residual Current Breaker with Overload) thus each circuit is protected separately for fault and overload.
  • On a final note, it’s always strongly advised that every landlord should make absolute certainty they are complying with the appropriate electrical safety regulations to ensure that all electrical equipment supplied is safe. Get periodic inspections of electrical equipment by a qualified electrician.

  • If ever in doubt, get a Part P registered electrician to check any electrical appliances. Once the part P registered sparky does the work it will be registered with either NAPIT or NICEIC and you will get a certificate.