Electrical Safety Inside The Flat
Whilst the Housing and Planning Act 2016, is looking to impose mandatory electrical safety checks on landlords, the main legislation for electrical safety is that of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.
The Institution of Electrical Engineers publish the ‘Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment’ (ISBN: 978-0-86341-833-4). This guide forms the basis for portable appliance testing in the U.K.
Note: Landlords are not however responsible for and do not have to repair any appliances that the tenant brings into the property, such as a microwave oven or anything else that the tenant adds.
BASIC VISUAL INSPECTIONS AND THE ELECTRICAL INSTALLATION CONDITION REPORT
Basic Visual Electrical Inspections should be conducted on an annual basis to check for any changes (especially when there is a change of tenants). Ideally a test ought to be conducted before a new tenant moves into the property (but not more often than once a year) as this will pick up any damage caused by the exiting tenant, and prevent any harm being done to the new tenant.
An Electrical Installation Condition Report (which replaced the Periodic Inspection Report) will detail any observed damage, deterioration, defects, dangerous conditions and any non-compliances with the present-day safety standard that might give rise to danger such as:
- The adequacy of earthing and bonding;
- The suitability of the switch gear and control gear. For example, an old fuse box with a wooden back, cast-iron switches, or a mixture of both will need replacing;
- The serviceability of switches, sockets and lighting fittings. Items that may need replacing include: older round-pin sockets, round light switches, cables with fabric coating hanging from ceiling roses to light fittings, black switches and sockets mounted in skirting boards;
- The type of wiring system and its condition such as cables coated in black rubber (which were phased out in the 1960s). Likewise cables coated in lead or fabric are even older and may well need replacing (modern cables use longer-lasting PVC insulation);
- Sockets that may be used to supply portable electrical equipment for use outdoors, making sure they are protected by a suitable residual current device (RCD);
- The presence of adequate identification and notices;
- The extent of any wear and tear, damage or other deterioration;
- Any changes in the use of the premises that have led to, or may lead to, unsafe conditions;
- Whether electrical circuits or equipment are overloaded;
- Whether there any potential electric shock risks and fire hazards.
The document is larger than the one it replaces and only electricians with the advanced City and Guilds Test & Inspections 2391-10 should be undertaking these reports according to the Law. Without this qualification being held, any report made and received is rendered worthless.
If anything dangerous (or potentially dangerous) is found, the overall condition of the electrical installation will be declared to be ‘unsatisfactory’, meaning that remedial action is required without delay to remove the risks to those in the premises.
If a situation gets to court then, if the court requests it, landlords and letting agents have to be able to prove ‘due diligence’ in that they took all reasonable steps to make sure that the property was safe, not just at the beginning of the tenancy but also during it. They are legally obliged to make sure that electrical appliances are ‘safe’ when they are first installed/supplied so that there is no risk of death or personal injury to humans or pets, or risk of damage to property. This applies not just at the start of the tenancy but throughout.