Moving into a rented home for the first time, you expect everything, especially all the electrical equipment, to be working correctly and most importantly safe. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. This guide is going to give you guidance on what your rights and responsibilities are as a tenant and take a brief look at what the future may hold.
Currently in the UK there are over 4.5 million rented households with over a million of these being families raising one or more children, as can be imagined electrical safety is paramount to prevent injury.
Different parts of the UK have different legislation when it comes to electrical safety in rented properties. Currently only Scotland has any legislation in place that make it a legal requirement for landlords to guarantee that their properties are electrically safe. In Wales a bill has been submitted to make it a requirement that every five years an Electrical Installation Condition Report is carried out. Neither Northern Ireland nor England has any legal requirements in place.
In 2018, Westminster carried out a consultation on proposed changes to the rental sector. The results were published in early 2019 and plans for the new regulations were announced.
The biggest change in these new regulations is that it will become mandatory for five yearly electrical checks of the rental property to take place. Currently it is only a recommendation that they take place at either five yearly intervals or on change of occupancy.
The second key point is that it will be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the person carrying out the inspection has the minimum level of qualifications to carry out the inspections, is competent to do so and carries out the inspection in line with the regulations.
Timescale wise, it is planned to bring these changes in over a two year period ‘as soon as parliamentary time allows’. In the first year it is planned to apply these regulations to new lets in the first year before moving to existing lets in the second year.
The big question remains around enforcement, not only on the inspections themselves but also on the carrying out of any remedial work to any issues raised.
Responsibilities as a Tennant
When moving into a rental property for the first time you should ask for a copy of the Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) if it’s an existing property, or the Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC) if it’s a new or re-wired property. One of these will give you details of the installation including any issue that may be present and in the case of the EICR the date when it was last carried out. Check that the details match what is currently visible in the property. If there are obvious damaged accessories, such as sockets or switches, that are not on the certificate, you should report this to your landlord.
Take a meter reading as soon as you move in, not only will this prevent you from possibly being overcharged, but it may help if there is a particular piece of electrical equipment that is drawing more power than it should.
Check that any portable equipment provided is either brand new or has been PAT tested to ensure that it is safe to use. If in doubt, ask your landlord to provide proof that it is safe to use.
What to do if problems arise
Your first point of contact in the event of a problem should be your landlord. If you are unable to get hold of them the next step should be the letting agency and finally if you still cannot make contact, you should contact your local council.
The type of problem you encounter though will decide whether you contact your landlord or not. The most common electrical issue you are likely to come across is a light bulb failing. This is your responsibility as a tenant to replace.
If you have a power cut, firstly check if it is just yourself or other properties that have been affected. If you live in a rented house for example check with other houses on the street to see if they are affected to, or alternatively UK Power Networks provide a live map detailing all current power cuts. If it is a power cut covering the whole area you will have to wait until power is restored. While waiting turn off any portable equipment such as hairdryers or IT equipment.
You may live in a block of flats or apartment buildings; again check whether it’s just your property or the whole building. If it is the whole building follow the steps above. If there is no sign of a wider power cut and it is just your building affected your landlord or the building maintenance company should be contacted to make them aware of the issue.
If the problem is affecting only your flat or apartment check your consumer unit for signs of Circuit Breaker or RCD that has tripped. If there is no sign of this then again contact your landlord. If however a device has tripped, before resetting it turn off or unplug all the electrical equipment in your home. Once you have done this, reset the device then slowly turn each item on one by one. If there is a faulty appliance causing the issue, this will allow you to identify it. If the device refuses to reset contact your landlord.
Fire is the most common issue arising from electrical issues, if any of your electrical equipment, appliances or consumer unit show any signs of discolouration or thermal damage or smells burnt, stop using the equipment immediately and contact your landlord. Of course if there’s visible smoke or fire, your first call should be to 999 and the fire brigade.
Hiring an Electrician
When your landlord hires an electrician check with them that the electrician hired is qualified to do the work. A registered electrician should be used where relevant. A registered electrician is one who has been deemed competent to work for householders in the UK, they will have a combination of experience and qualifications that are regularly assessed allowing them to work in people’s homes and carry out their work in a safe manner. They will be up to date on the latest edition of the wiring regulations and working to best practice. A full list of registered electricians is available at the Electrical Competent Person Register.
Upon completing any work they should issue your landlord a certificate. Depending on the type of work carried out it could be one of three types. A minor works certificate for non-Notifiable work. An Electrical Installation Certificate for Notifiable work or an Electrical Installation Condition Report for an inspection.