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Guide to Electrical Safety Inspections for landlords

Introduction

This short guide will discuss whether a landlord must have an electrical inspection for their property and their appliances. In addition it will cover requirements such as when and where an electrical condition report may be required, upcoming changes around electrical safety, and some best practice tips on inspections of appliances.

Electrical safety inspections for the property

Should I inspect my property?

As a general rule, landlords are expect to provide a safe property at the start and throughout their tenancy. This includes making sure the wiring, fuse boxes, etc are not dangerous. As such, for all landlords a regular visual inspection of the property to identify any potential issues with the electrical system is always a good idea.

If they fail to do this, and a problem arises in the property, then landlords may be considered negligent if the tenants are harmed or suffer damage to their own goods.

Dangerous electrics can contribute to a serious risk of fire, extreme cold, and insufficient lighting. As such, landlords who do not check the property may face enforcement action such as an improvement notice under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, endangering their section 21 notices.

In addition, from March 20th 2019, if the property becomes uninhabitable or is rented in a state considered unfit for human habitation then the landlord may be sued for breach of contract by their tenants.

I understand it is a good idea to do so, but am I legally required to inspect the property on a regular basis?

If your property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) then it is a legal requirement to have an electrical safety inspection performed at intervals of no more than 5 years. This check must be performed by a competent person.

For properties that are not HMOs, there is no legal requirement for regular electrical safety inspections at present. However, the government has announced plans to extend the requirement to include all rented properties at some point. Further details will be forthcoming, including guidance, once more details are provided.

What is a competent person?

A competent person should be someone suitably qualified to perform electrical inspections. An electrician accredited via Napit's Electrical Inspector Scheme for example would be suitably qualified.

Will I need to do anything after the inspection of my HMO?

Retain the Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) you are provided with by your competent person.

If your local authority requests a copy you must provide it to them within 7 days.

What are the penalties for not doing this?

The requirement to inspect every five years and provide a copy of the EICR on request is a breach of the HMO management regulations. Each breach can lead to a civil penalty of up to £30,000.

Portable appliance testing (PAT)

Where a landlord provides an electrical appliance as part of a tenancy, the law expects the appliance will be maintained in a safe condition that will not cause harm to the tenant. Failure to do so could lead to the landlord being sued for negligence. However, the law is silent on how landlords should ensure they do this. As such, unless specifically required as part of a licence condition, portable appliance testing is always best practice for landlords but it is not a legal requirement.

What is a portable appliance?

A portable appliance is an item that can be moved and usually unplugged from a power supply. This does not mean it is light enough to be picked up by hand, so a portable appliance can be something as small as a kettle or as big as a free standing fridge.

Do I need to have a qualified electrician test each appliance?

Usually no. for most appliances, a visual inspection by the landlord for any signs of danger would be sufficient. If an appliance is particularly dangerous to check or a landlord does not feel comfortable assessing it, they should have a qualified person perform the inspection.

What should I be looking for on my visual inspection?

There are a number of things that you should pay attention to with their visual inspections such as:

You should also consider whether the item is being used according to the manufacturer's instructions, whether the item itself is suitable for the task, and whether any issues been reported to you regarding the appliance. These factors may increase the risk of danger and increase the steps you should take to make the appliance reasonably safe.

I have done a visual inspection and I am worried about certain pieces of equipment. Should I hire a competent person to test the appliances?

Usually yes. However, if you have the equipment to test the appliances and you feel knowledgeable enough to perform the check yourself you can do so.

This is something that you learn how to do via an RLA training course if you would prefer to do it yourself.

How often should I check the appliances?

While there are no hard and fast rules on this, the HSE has produced guidance on the suggested frequency of inspections and testing for different appliances

Equipment User Checks Formal Visual inspection Inspection and testing required
Battery Operated Appliance No No No
Low voltage items (less than 50 volts AC) No No No
Desktop computers No Inspect every 2-4 years No, if double insulated, or up to 5 years between tests
Large table lamps, fans that are not hand held, occasionally moved No Inspect every 2-4 years No
Hand held, double-insulated (class II) (kitchen equipment) Yes Inspect every 6 months - 1 year No
Earthed equipment (class I) (kettles, some cleaning equipment, irons) Yes Inspect every 6 months - 1 year Yes, every 1 or 2 years
Cable for any of the above items, extension leads, phone chargers Yes Inspect every 6 months - 4 years depending on the type of equipment and risk associated with it Yes, 1-5 years depending on the type of equipment it is attached to
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