Bright sparks: Electrical safety requirements explained

Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, the requirement for increased monitoring of electrical appliances was thrust further into the spotlight, with increased pressure on politicians and governing bodies to make these regulations law across the country.

Is there currently a law surrounding electrical testing?

The Housing and Planning Act has a clause included within it which gives the government power to introduce electrical safety standards in the PRS For landlords in England and Wales, so whilst electrical safety checks are not yet mandatory it is likely that the rest of the UK will soon have to fall into line with the PRS in Scotland and electrical safety will become as prominent as gas safety within the sector.

The Renters Rights Bill requests that amendments are made to the Housing and Planning Act required for mandatory checks to be completed every five years.

So, I have no legal requirement regarding the electrics in my property?

Not quite. Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, Section 11, you do have a responsibility to ensure that all electrical installations and appliances provided within the property are safe when the tenancy begins and continue to be safe and in proper working order throughout the duration of the tenancy.

Your local authority can take action under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), if they believe you are not complying with their requirement, and you could face a fine of up to £30,000, an improvement notice or even a prohibition order

OK, so it is quite important to keep on top of this! What does an electrical test involve?

We are all familiar with the gas safety check by now, but there is much less clarity around the ins and outs of electrical safety.

An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) is an inspection of the electrical installations to identify any deficiencies within the safety of the property. The test will reveal if:

  • Any of the electrical circuits or equipment are overloaded
  • There is any potential for electric shock risks or fire hazards within the property
  • There is any defective work within the property
  • There is any lack of earthing or bonding
  • Writing and fixed electrical equipment is safe

The check should be carried out by an experienced engineer registered with the NICEIC building regulation scheme. You can find a registered contractor here:

Once the check has been carried out, you will receive a comprehensive report detailing the findings. The first box to check is box E, which will tell you if your property has been found in a satisfactory or unsatisfactory condition.

If your property is found to be unsatisfactory, you would be advised of actions that you need to take in Box F, the ‘Observations and Recommendations for Actions to be Taken’ section.

If actions are required, the urgency of the action is classified using a standardised rating system. This will be displayed using the following codes:

  • AC – Acceptable Condition
  • LIM – Limitation
  • FI – Further investigation
  • NV -Not verified
  • C1 ‘Danger present’. Risk of injury. Immediate remedial action required.
  • C2 ‘Potentially dangerous’. Urgent remedial action required
  • C3 ‘Improvement recommended’.

C1 and C2 indicates a dangerous, or potentially dangerous, condition that requires urgent attention to make the situation safe. Once the necessary remedial work has been completed, don’t forget to make sure you secure a certificate from your electrician confirming that work has been carried out in line with all the appropriate guidelines, Keep this documentation with your electrical safety certification to prove that work has been completed.

Your certificate will also include a full page of the circuits within the property, and their condition:

Is electrical testing the same as PAT Testing?

No. Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is the term used to describe the examination of portable electrical appliances.

There is some confusion around what is ‘portable’… however it is widely considered that unless an item is hardwired into the property (such as a cooker, for example) it should be considered as portable, no matter how uncomfortable it may be attempting to carry it!

Whilst it is not yet a legal requirement, it is considered best practice to carry out PAT annually due to potential wear and tear on portable appliances, and certainly at the start of any new tenancy. Keeping a detailed record of the tests is a vital part of the check, noting when it was undertaken, and the results of the checks.

A comprehensive electrical safety check with include PAT and you will receive a report that looks like this:

What about if I have any works carried out?

If you have any major works, you need an Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC), or a Minor Electrical Installation Works Certificate (MEIWC)

You’ll need one of these if you have any of the following work carried out:

  • New certificate will be issued on completion of new installation or a rewire
  • Additions certificate issued when adding new circuit to exiting installation that contains plug outlets etc
  • Alterations certificate to be applied for modification to existing circuits

Make sure your certificate is issued by an NICEIC registered trades person, a full list is available on the NICEIC website –

How much should these tests cost?

Costs vary dependent on the size of property that you are having tested, but as a general rule of thumb, if you work on a minimum of £15-£20 + VAT per circuit that you are having tested. It is unlikely that you will see much change out of around £200 though.

Is there anything I can do myself?

To clarify, it is VERY unwise to attempt any electrical works unless you are a trained professional, however there are a few visual checks that you can carry out during routine inspections to make sure your property is as safe as it can be.

  • Make sure your tenants aren’t’ ‘daisy chaining’ – plugging multiple extension leads into one another.
  • Check the casings of light switches, cables, sockets and plugs to any evidence of burn marks, smoke, discolouration, cracking or water damage.
  • Check that you have an RCD protecting your fusebox
  • Check that no flammable material is stored around the fusebox, meter or electrical instake
  • Check that cables are not being trailed under carpets or rugs

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