There is no clear demand for electrical safety testing to be carried out on a regular basis, unlike gas safety which requires a Gas Safe Certificate to be produced on an annual basis.
However, if a court of law requests it, landlords and letting agents have to be able to prove ‘due diligence’ in that they took all reasonable steps to ensure that the property was safe, not just at the beginning of the tenancy but also during it. This means that both landlords and letting agents are legally obliged to ensure 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.
Landlords and their agents also have to:
- Ensure that cracked/damaged sockets or plugs and frayed wiring is 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.
The following guidelines apply to all electrical appliances supplied for a tenancy:
- Live parts should not be accessible;
- Leads should not be warn 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.
Note: Landlords are not however responsible for and do not have to repair any appliances that the tenant brings into the property, for example a microwave oven or anything else that the tenant adds.
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.
Basic Visual Inspections
Basic Visual Electrical Inspections should be conducted on an annual basis to check for any changes (especially when there is a change of tenants). They also stress that 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, preventing any harm being done to the new inhabitant.
Periodic Inspection & Testing
Periodic inspection and testing should be carried out only by electrically competent persons, such as registered electricians. They will check the condition of an existing electrical installlation against the UK standard for the safety of electrical installations, BS 7671 – Requirements for Electrical Installations (IEE Wiring Regulations).
A periodic inspection should:
- Discover if electrical circuits or equipment are overloaded;
- Identify potential electrical shockrisks and fire hazards;
- Find any defective electrical work.
- Highlight any lack of earthing or bonding.
Tests are also carried out on the installation to check that it is safe.
Electrical Installation Condition Report
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 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 much 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.
More on electrical safety can be found via the following: