Domestic and commercial rented property, electrical testing
Approximately 20% of UK housing is rented.
Landlords electrical testing
As the complexity of the testing varies greatly with rented properties we can usually configure a test to suit the budget.
Why do landlords need to complete an electrical inspection?
There are two main Acts of Parliament that impose a statutory duty on landlords
with respect to the safety of electrical equipment:
1. The Consumer Protection Act 1987 landlords electrical testing obligations.
2. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
The Consumer Protection Act affects all persons who let property in the course of
their business because it defines them as "suppliers", i.e. they are supplying goods
to the tenant. There are several items of secondary legislation under the umbrella of
the Consumer protection Act which are directly relevant to the supply of electrical
1. The Low Voltage Electrical Equipment Regulations 1989
2. The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
3. The General Product Safety Regulations 1994
4. The Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994
Electrical Safety in Rental Property
Apart from the Landlord’s Common Law duty of care, the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 (and several other statutory regulations see below) requires that the electrical equipment is safe at the start of every tenancy and maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy.
Electrical hazards are also covered by the Housing Health and safety Rating System under the Housing Act 2004.
In the case of commercial property and houses in multiple occupation there is a statutory duty under the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 for the responsible person (the property manager) to carry out annual Fire Safety Risk Assessments, which include electrical safety risks.
If you let property you must ensure that the electrical system and all appliances supplied are safe – failure to comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 and the The Consumer Protection Act 1987 is a criminal offence and may result in:
- A fine of £5,000 per item not complying
- Six month’s imprisonment
- Possible manslaughter charges in the event of deaths
- The Tenant may also sue you for civil damages
- Your property insurance may be invalidated
These regulations are enforced by the Health & Safety Executive.
Read the article “Electrical Checks – Why bother? by Grant Roy MSc MIEE, chartered electrical engineer.
In essence, these regulations impose a duty on landlords to ensure that all
electrical equipment supplied by them is safe for use by the tenant. The Consumer
Protection Act provides a defence of 'due diligence', i.e. a landlord can defend a
contravention of the Act if he can demonstrate that he took reasonable steps to
avoid committing the offence.
Landlords electrical testing.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act places a duty of care upon both employer and employee to ensure the safety of all persons using the work premises.
This general requirement has been galvanised by several recent regulations, some of which explicitly extended their requirements to cover "self employed persons" and "all persons affected by their operations". In the Electricity at Work Regulations, a self-employed person is defined as follows:
electrical testing for landlords
"A self-employed person is an individual who works for gain or reward otherwise than under a contract of employment whether or not he employs others."
This definition would appear to apply to landlords and agents; similarly, tenants would appear to be a group of persons affected by the landlord's operations. This tends to suggest that electrical regulations, which are ostensibly directed at employers and the work place, are equally applicable to landlords, their premises and their tenants.
Some of the specific regulations that are applicable to electrical installations
Regulation 3(1b) of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 states:
"Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of: the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him or his undertaking"
Regulation 3 of the Electricity at Work Regulations states:
"It shall be the duty of every employer and self-employed person to comply with the provisions of these Regulations in so
far as they relate to matters within his control."
Regulation 4(2) of the Electricity at Work Regulations states:
"As may be necessary to prevent danger, all [electrical] systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is
practicable, such danger."
In summary, a landlord has duties both as a 'supplier of goods' and as the 'person responsible' for an electrical installation. As a 'supplier of goods' he must ensure that goods are checked before the tenant takes them over and as a 'person responsible' he must ensure an adequate system of maintenance. A regular inspection programme is an essential part of any maintenance system. For this reason, and to provide a demonstration of due diligence, 3-Step Safety
Check recommends an annual safety inspection of all residential lets.
When do landlords need to complete an electrical inspection?
Unlike the gas regulations there is not a statutory period for completing electrical safety inspections or maintenance. There are several authoritative documents that suggest suitable intervals including:
1. The Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE / MIET) - Code of Practice for in-service
inspection and testing of electrical equipment.
2. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - Maintaining portable and transportable
3. HSE - Maintaining portable electrical equipment in hotels and tourist
4. HSE - Maintaining portable electrical equipment in offices and other low risk
5. IEE - Inspection & Testing Guidance Note 3.
Landlords electrical testing.
Again the landlord/tenant scenario is not explicitly covered in any of the above documents. However, the Code of Practice for in-service inspection and testing of electrical equipment, states:
"The relevant requirement of the Electricity at Work Regulations is that equipment shall be maintained so as to prevent danger. Inspection and testing are means of determining whether maintenance is required. The frequency of inspecting and testing will depend upon the likelihood of maintenance being required and the consequence of the lack of maintenance. No rigid guidelines can be laid down, but the factors influencing the decision will include the following:
(a) The environment - equipment installed in an undisturbed, controlled environment such as an office will suffer less
damage than equipment in an arduous environment.
(b) The users - if the users of equipment report damage as and when it becomes evident, hazards will be avoided. Conversely, if equipment is likely to receive unreported abuse, more frequent inspection and testing is required.
(c) The equipment construction - the safety of a Class I appliance is dependent upon a connection with the earth of a fixed installation. If the flexible cable is damaged the connection with earth can be lost.
(d) The equipment type - hand-held appliances are more likely to be damaged than fixed appliances. If they are also Class I the risk of danger is increased. The same document also provides guidance on the frequency of inspection for various situations ranging from construction sites to offices and shops. An examination of this guidance would suggest that the landlord/tenant situation falls between what the IEE describe as a "hotel" situation and a situation where "equipment is used by the public".
Clearly the landlord/tenant situation is slightly more onerous than a hotel situation because there is no daily inspection of premises by hotels staff (which would uncover electrical problems) and it is slightly less arduous than the public use situation (because the tenant has some knowledge and control over the electrical equipment).
Therefore 3-Step Safety Check recommends an inspection and testing frequency of 12 months, which falls between the IEE guidance for the two situations outlined. The guidance contained in the "IEE Code of Practice for in-service inspection and testing of electrical equipment" refers to electrical appliances rather than fixed installations although the document does state: "Similar procedures must be followed for the fixed installation". IEE Guidance Note 3, Inspection and Testing provides guidance on the inspection, testing and maintenance required for fixed installations. This document places a general requirement for a "routine check" on commercial properties of 1 year with a more thorough examination including inspection and testing every 5 years, or at change of tenancy. 3-Step Safety Check recommends an annual inspection that is more rigorous than the "routine check" but should obviate the need for a more thorough 5 yearly inspection.
What do landlords need to check?
Once a landlord has established the need to test the decision on the level of testing required is a technical matter adequately covered by IEE documentation. There is also an array of specialist equipment designed specifically to complete IEE test regimes for portable and fixed electrical equipment.
3-Step Safety Check adhere to the guidance on portable appliance testing and expand on the annual "routine check" for fixed installations by carrying out electrical tests to confirm correct wiring, correct earthing and the correct operation of safety devices.
Whom should landlords employ to carry out electrical testing?
As with almost all safety legislation, the person required to carry out electrical checks must be a competent person. Competency is judged on a combination of training, knowledge and experience..All Southern Testing Operatives are either MIET / MIEE or 17th edition + C & G 2391. Only British Trained personnel are employed for Landlords electrical testing services.
©Grant Roy MSc MIEE Chartered Electrical Engineer. (not employed by Southern Testing)