Electricity has consistently been the second largest cause of fire in the UK. The risk of fire can be reduced if the installations are properly designed, installed, modified, extended and maintained.
Installations can deteriorate due to age, misuse or environmental conditions.
The current regulations for electrical installations are BS7671:2008. Compliance with this regulation is not a legal requirement. However, there is a legal duty under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 for all electrical installations in work places to be maintained to be safe and to prevent danger. In the event of an accident the authorities will look at the wiring regulations as a benchmark to the standards that should be adopted. Conforming to advice in regulation and best practice is a way to satisfy your obligations in Law.
Regulation 4 of the act has a more general scope and places a requirement on the “duty holder”.
For residential property managers there is a duty to ensure that both the fixed wiring system and portable electrical equipment is safe and regularly maintained. This legal obligation extends to common parts of managed residential accommodation wherever a person may be employed e.g. caretaker, contractor.
The requirements do not apply in the resident’s demise. For rented residential accommodation there aren’t regulations in the same way as there is for gas safety. One has to look at various regulations and general landlord’s duties and responsibilities.
Examples of the way in which electrical safety could be enforced are as follows:-
1. Building Regulations
2. Various Statutory Regulations such as the Electrical Safety Regulations and the Plugs and Sockets regulations.
3. Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 imposing landlord’s repairing obligations relating to short residential tenancies – there is an obligation to keep electrical installations in repair and in proper working order.
4. Defective Premises Act 1972 – if a tenant or resident is injured as a result of a defective electrical installation or their personal property is damaged then there would be a liability in damages
Objective for Michael Parkes Property Management
To ascertain compliance with the latest edition of BS7671 and the Electricity at Work Regulations and to verify that the installation is being properly maintained and is in a safe condition.
All work should be carried out by a competent person and it is recommended that a competent person is NIC EIC approved or a member of ECA or IEE.
For commercial and block management: – the recommendations for frequency of testing are contained within Guidance Note 3: Inspection and Testing issued by The Institution of Electrical Engineers.
The following is a summary of recommended periods
10 Years – Domestic i.e. your house (10 years from new and recommended 5 yearly thereafter)
5 years – Commercial premises, common parts in blocks of flat, education establishments, hospitals
3 years – external installations for agricultural and horticultural, caravans, leisure complexes, cinemas, theatres
1 year – industrial, churches over 5 years old, restaurants, hotels, caravan sites, swimming pools and special installations such as launderettes, petrol stations, and fire alarms.
Having borne this in mind it is very important to note that these are maximum intervals and if you manage something where the installation is very old or there are particular site conditions which may mean testing should be done more often then you need to adjust the intervals having discussed this with your approved contractor.
For residential lettings: – at the start of the tenancy and throughout both the installation and appliances must be free of risk of injury to tenants and residents. The local authority can take action to enforce electrical safety in residential accommodation under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
The Electrical Safety Council now recommends that periodic inspections/tests by a qualified electrician should be carried out at least every 5 years or on a change of tenancy.
A full inspection/test may not always be required especially if there has been a change of tenancy soon after the electrical inspection by an electrician. However, it is imperative that a landlord’s representative carries out a visual electrical safety inspection prior to re-letting. A visual condition report is only suitable where the installations have been inspected and tested in the last two years and the result was satisfactory or any resulting defects have been rectified.
A routine check does not need to be undertaken by an electrical contractor but someone who can recognise damage, wear, deterioration, overheating and missing parts etc. On routine property inspections you will notice obvious things like a plug socket hanging out, burn marks near an electric heater or a defect to the insulation on a wire/cable.
You must keep records! This is confirmed in the regulations and documents should preferably be kept throughout the working life of the installation. This includes the periodic inspection of the electrical installation and routine checks.
This is not covered by the wiring regulations but there is still a duty under Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 it includes anything that is not part of the fixed installation but is fed by cable and plug systems. The frequency for this testing is more risk assessment based so the more frequent or heavier the use, the greater the risk of damage occurring then the more frequent the testing should be. Advice on frequency has been issued by HSE. In the absence of a risk assessment insurers Allianz suggest testing on a 12 monthly basis.
Fire Safety Equipment
Fire alarms should be tested at various recorded points each month by the occupier and a full test should be undertaken by a qualified person every 6 months and fully certified.
Emergency Lighting – as above should be tested monthly, then 6 monthly by a qualified person and fully certified.
It may not be “law” to test the electrics every 5 years but it is law to have them maintained, tested and safe and you would need to ask yourself why you would not comply with the recommended best practise when that is what a judge would be referring to in the event of a problem. Without effective monitoring a duty holder cannot be certain that the requirements for maintenance have been complied with. As managing agents we are responsible for any property where there is a landlord’s supply. For example, if you receive a communal electricity bill, or there is an electronic gate on site or perhaps just one light bulb in a common hallway or external space, then there is most likely a landlord’s supply and if that is the case there should be test records and routine inspections.
With rented residential accommodation it is the Landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the electrical installation and appliances provided by the landlord safe when the tenancy begins and is in repair and proper working order throughout the tenancy.
If you have a long standing tenant you may only have to have the periodic inspection test every 5 years.
Alternatively at each change of tenancy there should be an inspection by an electrician. If however the change of tenancy has been within two years, a visual condition report will be satisfactory provided the test results in the last two years were satisfactory or any resulting defect have been rectified.
Further information can be obtained from the paperwork I have referred to which is:-
Zurich advice 001 – fire safety – electrical maintenance
ARMA guidance note 08/09 Electrical Inspections and Tests
Allianz advice note Safety of Electrical Installations
Electrical Safety Council advice note Periodic Inspection Reporting – recommendation codes for domestic and similar