Electrical Safety Obligations for Landlords

By Rachel England Wednesday 31 August 2016

Being a landlord can be a very rewarding way of supplementing your income, but you are obligated to meet a number of health and safety criteria, one of the most important being electrical safety. Around 30 deaths and 4,000 accidents take place in the UK every year because of household electrics, so don’t make the mistake of thinking they couldn’t happen in one of your properties. 

The law says that you must ensure all electrical installations and appliances you provide are safe, but how these rules are interpreted are less clear cut. Here’s what you need to know.

By law you must make sure:

  • All electrical installations, such as sockets and light fittings, are safe when tenants move in and are maintained for the duration of the tenancy.
  • All electrical appliances you provide, such as cookers and washing machines, are safe and have at minimum the CE marking.
  • An inspection and test is carried out every five years if the property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), or, due to recent legislation changes, the property is in Scotland, HMO or otherwise.

These are the very basic legal requirements landlords must undertake, and although regular inspections by registered electricians are not obligatory (unless the property is a HMO or in Scotland), you should carry out basic safety checks regularly anyway to make sure everything is in order.

Legal obligations for landlords

What are the consequences of failing to comply with electrical safety regulations?

If electrical installations and appliances provided by you, the landlord, are found to be unsafe, you could face:

  • A £5,000 fine
  • Six months imprisonment
  • Potential criminal charges in the event of injury or death
  • Invalidated property insurance

Of course, it’s in your best interests to keep your property’s electrics in tip-top condition. Safe tenants are happy tenants (which makes the business of letting your property much easier), and safe electrics also greatly minimise the risk of costly damage (such as fire) to your property. So in addition to the basic legal requirements outlined above, it’s worth taking additional safety measures.

Electrical safety certificate

What is an Electrical Safety Certificate?

An Electrical Safety Certificate is a document issued by a certified electrician to attest that all electrical circuits and appliances in a property are in working order and safe to use. While it is not a legal requirement for landlords to obtain one in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is recommended to have electrical systems checked every five to ten years. The inspection will:

  • Discover any potential safety risks
  • Reveal any poor electrical work
  • Show if any of electrical circuits or equipment (such as extension cords) are overloaded
  • Establish if  earthing and bonding measures have been carried out adequately
  • Check that equipment can be appropriately serviced
  • Determine the extent of any damage or wear and tear

Is an Electrical Safety Certificate a legal requirement for UK landlords?

While landlords are required under current UK law to obtain a Gas Safety Certificate and carry out annual checks, similar requirements are not in place for Electrical Safety at present in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, private landlords are responsible for ensuring that an electrical safety survey of their property is carried out by a registered electrician at least once every five years, as well as at the beginning of a new tenancy. 
The person conducting the inspection must be a member of (or an employee of a business that is a member of) an accredited registration scheme operated by a body recognised by the Scottish Government – this will usually mean that they are registered with the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC) or a member firm of the Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland (SELECT).

Landlord tips for top electrical safety

To ensure the safety of your tenants you should:

  • Make sure a residual current device (RCD) is fitted to the fuse box. This helps prevent fatal electric shocks and provides protection against electrical fires.
  • Carry out (or commission) regular tests on all electrical installations (and only use registered electricians, even for small jobs).
  • Conduct regular visual inspections – frayed wires, scorching and broken plugs should be addressed immediately. 
  • Make sure tenants know and have access to the main consumer unit, fuses and isolator switch in the property.
  • Give tenants copies of operating instructions for all appliances you provide.
  • Pay special attention to any second-hand items you provide – make sure they’re thoroughly tested before they’re installed.
  • Keep up to date with wiring and lighting regulations. There’s no law that says you have to install the latest systems, but best practice dictates you keep them relatively modern.

Regional variations

Rules and best practice differ depending on where your property is. As already mentioned, landlords in Scotland are now required by law to have a compulsory Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) conducted every five years.
There’s no such requirement in England and Wales (yet), but you could fall foul of the Landlord and Tenant Act, which requires landlords to respond to any request for repairs in a timely manner. Fail to do so and you could be liable for fines or bans.
Guidelines in Northern Ireland are similar to those in England and Wales, but the country does have its own consumer laws and legislation on electrical equipment which you should pay attention to as well.

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