Are your electricals shocking?
“It’s health and safety gone mad!”. We’ve all heard that one – often from a bloke at the pub who feels that the world is intruding too much into what should be common sense. Yet the law and common sense have, at best, a troubled relationship – and it’s the law which will come knocking if you get this wrong, not your mate from the pub. There are about 30 deaths and 4000 accidents annually in the UK involving electricity; don’t imaging this can’t happen to you. So this week I’m going to help keep you on the right side of the law when it comes to electrical fittings and equipment.
Your responsibilities as a landlord
The law says that landlords must ensure:
- That the electrical installation (wires, plugs etc.) in any rented property is safe for tenants from the day they move in to the day they move out.
- That any electrical appliance provided (washing machines, lamps etc.) is safe for its intended use. This is shown by the CE mark, which proves it was manufactured in accordance with European Law.
- That any HMO has a 5-yearly electrical inspection carried out.
- This is not mandatory for non-HMOs, but it is recommended that you carry out periodic inspections at least every 5 years. This would allow you to prove due-diligence in the event of a problem – more of which later.
- This is enshrined in several pieces of legislation such as the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, the Housing Act 2004, the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 and the Consumer Protection Act 1987. Failure to comply is a criminal offence and can 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 sue you for civil damages
- Your property insurance may also be invalidated
So how should you go about doing this right?
Welcome back Mr Common Sense! You can actually do some simple, common sense things to show the authorities (if they should ever need to ask) that you have tried to be a good landlord. Regular visual inspections should include a check for any obvious problems, such as cracked plug sockets, exposed wires, faulty appliances etc. Your agent should be doing this regularly anyway, but make sure that a visual electrical check is included in their service. It should be! If you manage the property yourself, you can also download the “Home Electrical Safety Check” app – it’s free and will give you a good idea of problems to look out for.
Next, make sure that any electrician who works on your property is properly registered. Many will display the badges of organisations such as the NICEIC on their van or paperwork, but you can ensure that they are still fully registered by checking online here. They will be able to advise you on any faulty appliances, and whether the fixed wiring is up to standard – for instance if it has the proper RCD protection.
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016 commenced on 8th December 2016
God bless the government – if they didn’t keep changing all the laws which landlords are subject to (there are over 150!) then we would all have nothing to do… Hmmm. Here’s another one they changed recently, with very little fanfare or any attempt to engage landlords on the issue:
- If a landlord has purchased an electrical appliance on or after the 8th December 2016 for a new let then the landlord needs to provide the actual instruction manual for the appliance (and not just the generic safety instructions).
- If purchased before 8th December 2016 the old regulations apply i.e. generic safety information is sufficient to comply. This applies to any electrical equipment for a property when first placed on the market.
- In addition to ensuring the equipment is safe, before the property is marketed for rent, the landlord and agent must ensure that the electrical equipment:
- Is labelled correctly by the manufacturer, bearing a type, batch or serial number or other element allowing its identification to be clear, understandable and intelligible.
- Contains information identifying the importer, and will be labelled correctly, the electrical equipment must be marked with a single postal address at which the manufacturer can be contacted.
Simple tips for an easy life:
- Don’t supply any electrical equipment if you don’t have to.
- Not only will this involve paying for checks in the future, you’ll also be responsible for replacing it in the future if it breaks or wears out.
- Keep receipts for any appliances you do buy.
- Ensure that operating instructions and safety warning notices are supplied with the appliances.
- Ensure that flexes are in good order and properly attached to appliances and plugs.
- Make sure that tenants know the location of and have access to the main consumer unit, RCDs and isolator switch.
- If in doubt, ask a qualified and registered electrician.
- Keep records of all electrical inspections.
If the worst should happen and you need to explain yourself to the Health and Safety Executive (or a court), your best bet is to be able to show ‘Due Diligence’. This is where you can show that you took all reasonable steps to avoid committing an offence, but they’re not going to just take your word for it. You will need documentary evidence, in the form of receipts, electrical reports, records of inspections and any relevant correspondence showing that you tried to identify problems and sort them out in a reasonably quick timescale. Using the old “but the tenant didn’t tell me there was a problem” is likely to get you nowhere. If you have an agent managing your property, then they will be on the hook as well – but crucially that will not get you out of hot water. You need to show that you thought they were doing all of the above, and that you had reasonable grounds for doing so – backed up as before, with evidence.
It all sounds a bit heavy, I know, but in real life it doesn’t have to be. Get a good agent, keep good records, and behave like you would if it were your own children living in that property – keep them safe! If you can do all of that, you’ll never need to explain yourself to anyone; but if you don’t do all that, you might regret it heavily later.
Call us any time to discuss how we can make your investment property safe, profitable and carefree, on 0115 945 5179.