Electrical Safety - A Guide for Landlords
30,744: the number of house fires recorded as breaking out between January 2017 and January 2018.
13,728: the number of those fires that were directly caused by electrical faults.
If a fire breaks out in one of your properties, you may have tort claims filed against you.
The legal basis for this may be found in relevant legislation:
E.g. Landlord and Tenant Act 1985: “The property should be kept in a fit state for people to live in during the tenancy”
And case law: E.g. British Railways Board v. Herrington—Established that duty of care extends even to trespassers.
The causes of electrical fires are varied (poor installation, deterioration over time matched with poor maintenance, simple misuse, etc.); however, there are established measures you can to take as a landlord to mitigate against fire risk. Taking these measures will keep your property and tenants safe, and ensure you aren’t liable should a fire break out due to an electrical fault.
1. New Installations
As of 2005, The Building Regulations for England and Wales have stated that (except for minor work) building control must be notified before work is undertaken on a property’s electrical installations—that is to say (viz.) any fixed electrical equipment that is supplied through the electricity meter; including cabling installed behind the walls, accessories such as sockets and switches, and the fuse box.
The work should then be certified as safe by any of the following parties:
A building control body—your local authority.
An electrician who is a registered third-party certifier.
The electrician who completed the work—electricians registered with the government’s Part P scheme may self-certify.
2. Existing Installations
You should have periodic inspections of your electrical installations to ensure they meet British standard wiring regulations (BS 7671) as laid out by the Institute of Electrical Engineering (IEE).
After an electrician has completed such an inspection they will issue you with an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR). This report will outline the details of the inspection, what exactly was inspected, and the condition of the appliances inspected. The EICR may recommend that action be taken to repair or replace certain appliances or wiring. The report will also issue a declaration as to whether or not your electrical installation is safe for continued use.
If the state of your electrical installations/ appliances is found to be unsafe, the report will code C1: danger present or C2: potentially dangerous. It goes without saying that you ought to have such electrical installations/ appliances repaired or replaced.
When remedial work is carried out, you will be issues with an Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC). If you have had all C1 and C2 faults corrected, there is no need for a second full inspection. You should keep your EICR and any EICs on file.
In general, you should have your electrical installations inspected at least once every five years. Indeed, the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations states that HMOs must have their electrics tested at least once in every five year period from their installation.
In addition to these periodic inspections, you should carry out a visual inspection when a change of tenancy occurs. You should be checking that you don’t have broken sockets or light switches, no overheating of electrical equipment, or hot areas of wall (symptomatic of an arc fault).
3. Household Appliances
If you are providing household appliances, e.g. a kettle or iron, those appliances should be safe for use. Moreover, the instructions (that detail safe use) ought to be made available to your tenants. Appliances should bear the ‘CE’ mark that indicates compliance with EU legislation, should be undamaged (no cuts in the cabling), and should not be subject to a recall.
If you follow the guidance in sections 1, 2 and 3, and maintain your records (e.g. EICRs and EICs), you will be taking sufficient action to meet your duty of care as regards electrical safety.