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When it comes to renting accommodation, we want to know that it is going to be a safe place for us to reside. The landlord when renting out the property has a duty of care to keep those living in it safe and free from any hazards to their health.
The landlord’s responsibilities
When a landlord rents out a property, they have a number of responsibilities to meet. Details of their obligations are available here. One of the landlord’s duties involves electrical safety. For the owner, they have to make sure that any electrical items they supply and which can be connected to the mains are safe. Electrical items can be anything the landlord provides as part of the lease such as washing machines, toasters, kettles and cookers for example. It doesn’t matter whether the items they offer as part of the tenancy are new or second-hand; they have to be safe.
One simple way for landlords to meet their responsibilities when it comes to electrical safety is to test the electrical items on a regular basis. Known as portable appliance testing or PAT testing, it offers a way for all parties to know that all electrical items in the home are safe.
Is PAT testing necessary?
Unlike gas appliances, there is no similar legal requirement for testing electrical appliances. That said landlords do have a duty of care when it comes to renting out accommodation. It doesn’t matter whether the rented accommodation is a house, flat, bedsit, caravan or boat. The only responsibility that a landlord has is to make sure that any electrical appliances they provide when renting out housing are safe. If it is possible to connect a device to the mains supply, then it has to be safe to use. Most experts including the Electrical Safety Council recommend that landlords carry out portable appliance testing as a way of meeting the requirement.
Over time, any electrical device may become faulty. The best way that a landlord can show that the electrical appliances they provide are safe and that they have met the need to offer a duty of care is to carry out PAT testing. Undertaking PAT testing shows that they have been able to discharge their responsibility for making sure that equipment is safe. Not doing anything would make it difficult for the landlord to prove this.
Putting any legal requirements to one side, an electrical fault that causes a fire or someone getting an electric shock is not something that should be taken lightly. It needs to be kept in mind when thinking about whether testing is required.
Check out our guide on how to save electricity as well.
Over time as tenants use the electrical equipment that landlords provide with the housing they rent, it could become damaged or faulty. It could, in theory, make the equipment they use unsafe. It may be possible to spot many of the vaults just by looking at the equipment. There may be some faults however that are no so readily visible. Internal damage may happen if the electrical items are misused or internal connections weaken over time.
By putting in place a general timetable of maintenance, inspection and testing it provides a means of identifying items that have any damage or faults. This is where PAT testing comes in. PAT testing involves a visual inspection as well as an electrical check. This is done on electrical items such as kettles, fridges, freezers, cookers and anything else that can be connected to a mains supply. The testing involves using a piece of equipment known as a PAT tester.
Appliances that pass the electrical test are said to be safe until the next test date. If landlords use a company to check the equipment, they will typically attach a sticker that shows whether it is a pass or fail. The label will also display the date of the next test. The general view is that the interval between each test is normally once a year however it can be between six months and two years depending on the environment. For example testing appliances on a boat might warrant testing every six months.
At the end of the testing apart from putting stickers on all the devices they have examined the person who has done the testing should provide the landlord with a dated certificate.
Who should do the testing?
The PAT testing should be performed by someone who has received the appropriate training, using approved equipment like the great seaward Apollo range. Normally this is an electrician however anyone who is competent can do so. If they have received the proper training, there is no reason it cannot be the landlord. Testing typically costs about £100 on average.
You might want to check out my post on whole-house energy monitoring systems as well.