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Electrics in your rented property – some key rules and advice

At the start of 2017, the National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT) began giving presentations to landlords around the UK, in an effort to raise awareness of the value of having their properties regularly inspected by a professional electrician. NAPIT’s business relationship director, Ian Halton, says: “It’s become a mission of ours to make as many landlords as we can aware of the potential danger they could be putting their tenants in if they don’t keep on top of the electrical safety of their property.” To date, more than 3,500 landlords have received NAPIT’s advice.

Properties in the PRS are being particularly targeted for heightened electrical safety because of the relatively high number of sub-standard homes in the sector. According to government data, 28% of homes in the PRS failed to reach the Decent Homes Standard in 2015 – that’s double the number found in the social rented sector and 10% more than the figure for owner-occupied homes.

At the same time, the government has launched a voluntary code of practice via the new Office for Product Safety and Standards, which was set up in January this year in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy. In that incident, it’s believed the fire was started by a faulty fridge-freezer, so the code of practice is focused on how Trading Standards can monitor and support businesses in relation to product safety and the management of product recalls.

According to Electrical Safety First:

• In 2016/17, faulty appliances caused 4,120 house fires resulting in 423 deaths and injuries
• 516 recall notices have been issued for electrical products in the UK since 2007
• Only 10-20% of faulty goods are returned or repaired, leaving potentially millions of dangerous electrical goods in people’s homes.

What are landlords required to do, legally?

In terms of legal requirements, electrical safety is something of a grey area for landlords in England and Wales. The law simply states that all electrical installations and equipment must be safe when tenants move in and maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy.

In Scotland, landlords are legally obliged to provide tenants with a valid electrical certificate before the tenancy starts and renew it every 5 years. But in England and Wales, there’s not yet any such requirement for properties let to a single household.

What is an ‘electrical certificate’?

The ‘certificate’ is an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) that details the safety of the electrical installations and equipment in a property. Both Electrical Safety First and NAPIT recommend that inspection and testing should be carried out by a registered electrician on tenanted properties every five years or at each change of occupancy, whichever is sooner. They also advise landlords to carry out a visual inspection of the electrics between tenancies.

If your rented property is an HMO, the law in England and Wales states you must have an EICR carried out every five years. Your local council can ask to see the document with just seven days’ notice.

What does your landlord insurance provider say?

As lettings legislation around health and safety in general continues to tighten up, more insurers are making it a condition of their landlord insurance policies that there is a valid EICR for the property. That’s to ensure that there are no electrical hazards that could put either the tenant or the building at risk. So check with your insurer (a) whether you’re required to have an inspection and (b) how often that needs to be renewed.

Electrical appliances in your rented property

While there’s no legal requirement for landlords in England and Wales to have the appliances in a rented property professionally checked currently, (unlike Scotland) the law states that if you’ve provided any electrical equipment in the property – such as a fridge, kettle or lamps – it must be kept in a safe condition. And the best way to prove that is to have a Portable Appliance Test (PAT), where a registered electrician carries out visual inspections and electronic tests, then either passes or fails each appliance.

There’s no ‘certificate’ for PAT, but the electrician should leave you with an inventory detailing:

• Each appliance, including its location
• Whether it’s passed or failed
• An explanation of any failure.

In terms of overall electrical safety, we’d suggest that as a matter of best practice you do the following:

• Between tenancies:
o visually check all electrical appliances yourself, to make sure there aren’t any loose wires and everything appears to be in good condition
o Check the fuse box hasn’t been damaged
o Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working properly
• Have a PAT carried out every 2 years for smaller appliances (e.g. toasters and vacuum cleaners) and every 4 years for larger ones (e.g. fridges and washing machines) – as recommended by Electrical Safety First
• Have an EICR every 5 years or, if a tenancy ends after three to four years, before the new tenants move in.
• Leave a copy of both the EICR and PAT in the property and carefully file the originals.

You can find a suitably qualified electrician who’s registered with a government-approved scheme via the Electrical Safety First website.

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