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.
It requires that all appropriate electrical equipment supplied in a property must be safe to use. Unlike the Gas Safety Regulations, there is no mandatory requirement for the equipment to be checked nor are there any stipulations as to how often the electrical supply might need to be checked, but the duty of care remains the same. If landlords or agents should be found guilty of non-compliance with these regulations, the penalties are severe in monetary terms and include possible imprisonment.
Landlords and their agents have to:
- Ensure that cracked/damaged sockets or plugs and frayed wiring are made good;
- Property is inspected and tested at least every 10 years by a ‘Competent Person’;
- Ensure all socket outlets which may be used for equipment outdoors (e.g. a lawnmower) should be protected by a Residual Current Device (RCD);
- Retain copies of any certificates of electrical works carried out.
If they supply any electrical appliances they must make sure of the following:
- Live parts should not be accessible;
- Leads should not be worn or frayed and be complete with no joins;
- Trailing leads and the use of multiple plug adaptors should be avoided;
- Correct plugs (marked B SECTION 136) should be fitted and correctly fused;
- Plug sockets should be firmly fastened to the wall or skirting;
- Any moving parts should be guarded;
- Electric blankets should be serviced according to the manufacturers instructions;
- Microwave doors should be clean, free from corrosion and effective;
- Washing machines, cookers etc should be serviced and in good working order;
- Electrical heaters and central heating appliances should be serviced annually;
- Fireguards should meet BS3248;
- Fire extinguishers should be marked BS6575 1985.
- Any electrical equipment must have a regular PAT Test (Portable Appliance Test). The level of inspection and testing required is dependent upon the risk of the appliance becoming faulty, which is in turn dependent upon the type of appliance, the nature of its use and the environment in which it is used. 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 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.