Government officials are currently debating electrical safety in rented homes with a view to making electrical checks a compulsory requirement for landlords.
The state of play at the moment
Currently, it is only a recommendation to have an electrical check carried out in a rented property. Additionally, it is also highly recommended to Portable Appliance Test (PAT) all electrical appliances supplied as part of the rental agreement i.e. washing machines, kettles, electric heaters etc.
Unfortunately these recommendations are giving ample opportunity for unscrupulous landlords to effectively 'slip the net' and become able to let their property with sub-standard electrics. By contrast, gas checks are a compulsory requirement with landlords needing to obtain annual gas safety certification, so it becomes somewhat of an ironic situation to discover a property can be squeaky clean when it comes to gas but be a death trap when the electrics come into consideration.
This leads to confusion on both the landlords part and that of the tenant over what electrical checks should be carried out – if any. Effectively this has caused a grey area and worryingly is compromising the safety of tenants in rental properties.
A welcome move
It is fair to state in this article that the majority of landlords do follow the recommendations which is to have an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) carried out every 5 years or with every change of tenancy, whichever occurs first.
The Government is proposing to introduce mandatory electrical safety checks in private rented properties which means homes need to be checked every 10 years. This move is widely supported by landlords and I believe, is a step in the right direction for electrical safety in rented homes being taken seriously.
There is also Government interest in ensuring that all homes in the rental sector have RCD protection. An RCD is a Residual Current Device that is fitted to all new and modern consumer units. An RCD activates when electricity becomes dangerous – for example if an electrical appliance malfunctions or someone in the household accidentally touches a live cable. If this happens, the RCD cuts the electrical supply in a fraction of a second. RCD's have been responsible for saving many lives in recent years and in my opinion, no home should be without one.
The consequences of no electrical safety checks
Landlords who continuously flout the recommendations should take notice that if something happens to their tenants in their property then it is down to them to provide proof that they ensured the electrical safety of their tenants. In the absence of an EICR this will be very difficult.
The penalties for failing to ensure a rental property is electrically safe are rightfully harsh and include:
Invalidation/refusal to provide insurance cover
A fine of £5000 for each unsafe electrical appliance (not PAT tested and found to be unsafe)
Six months in prison
Being sued by the tenant
Manslaughter charges in the event of a death occurring as a result of negligence.
Protect yourself and your property
Tenants should expect to find dated safety checks in the form of a gas safety check and EICR when they move into a rented property. All electrical equipment supplied by the landlord should be PAT tested.
Tenants should also be educated on electrical safety in their home by not overloading sockets and keeping electrical appliances in good order. Any concerns about electrical safety should be reported to the landlord immediately.
The introduction of mandatory electrical safety checks will provide a clearly defined route for landlords to stay compliant and will put a stop to the current 'cat and mouse' games that are seen in some rental properties in the UK.