How can landlords ensure that their electrical installations are safe?
Regulations such as the Landlord and Tenant Act, the Occupier’s Liability Act, Building Regulations and Fire Safety Orders put a number of electrical safety obligations on landlords. These regulations put the duty of care for people in rented accommodation in their landlords’ hands, and oblige landlords to take reasonable steps to ensure that the electrical installations and appliances they provided in their property portfolio are safe.
Electrical installations consist of fuse boxes (the consumer unit), switches, light fittings, plug sockets and other accessories, cables – including those behind the wall – and all other fixed items that are supplied with electricity through the power meter. Over time, electricity connections can become loose or frayed and appliances can break down – in fact, short-term home improvements and building work can easily lead to electrical home emergencies.
What does a safe electrical installation look like?
- There should be enough plug sockets available for normal use. This means tenants should not feel inclined to connect extension cords together and will therefore avoid overloading their plug sockets.
- RCD protection should be installed to ensure electrical equipment does not lead to dangerous shocks. These should be fitted into the fusebox or incorporated into the plug socket.
- Broken socket covers, plugs or cables should be replaced immediately.
- Protective bonding and earthing arrangements should be put in place so that electrical faults do not lead to shocks or fires.
- Cables should be appropriate for the appliances, circuit breakers and fuses in question.
- There should be enough circuits to ensure that an electrical breakdown does not cause unnecessary inconvenience.
Landlord electrical safety checklist
- Register appliances on Register My Appliance in order to stay informed of any recalls, and adhere to the terms of any recalls when they become aware of them.
- Check appliance covers and casings – if they are damaged, they could pose a fire risk or lead to an electrocution.
- Ensure that cables are not frayed or otherwise damaged, and are securely fixed to the plug and appliance.
- Check that RCDs are fitted on fuses, and that they trip when the test button is pressed.
- Check that fuse covers are fitted correctly and are undamaged.
- Ensure that the area surrounding the fusebox is clear of any flammable items, volatile chemicals or other fire risks, including cleaning fluids, paints and scrap paper.
- Check that light fittings, plug sockets, switches and other fittings are securely fixed to the wall or ceiling.
- Look for signs of electrical damage, such as scorch marks, sootiness or yellowing of walls, and take immediate action when these problems are discovered.
- Make sure cables are in a sensible position and are not likely to suffer any damage – check to see they’re not leading out of doors or windows or trailing across walkways.
- Look to see if any sockets are overloaded or are at risk of being overloaded, such as by overuse of extension cables.
- Check that smoke alarms are fitted on every floor of the house, and that they work properly.
- Check that audible carbon monoxide alarms are located in every room that contains a fuel-burning appliance, and that they work properly.
Repairs and maintenance:
- Arrange an inspection of the property’s electrical systems once every five years. This is legally mandatory for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), and are strongly recommended in other rented properties.
- Only use registered electricians for any electrical work, and confirm that all building and electrical work complies with Part P of the Building Regulations.
- Get all electrical appliances that were provided to the tenants at the beginning of the tenancy checked regularly.
- Ensure that these appliances have the CE marking or reach British Standards.
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