Testing and Inspections
The testing of electrical installations and equipment is important when it comes to safety of persons and property. Due to electrical faults many homes and work places pose a risk from electrocution or fire. It is not just a safety issue, it is the law.
Every electrical installation deteriorates with use and age. It is important for the person responsible for the maintenance of the installation to be sure that the safety of users is not put at risk, and that the installation continues to be in a safe and serviceable condition.
A Periodic Inspection is an inspection on the condition of an existing electrical installation in order to determine, so far as is reasonably practicable, whether the installation is in a satisfactory condition for continued service.
The fundamental reason for inspecting and testing an electrical installation is to determine whether new installation work is safe to be put into service, or whether an existing installation is safe to remain in service until the next inspection is due.
The frequency of testing being required is dependant on the age and type of property and its use. It is also recommended that property is inspected and tested when it is being let or sold or when buying a previously occupied property.
There are two main Acts of Parliament that impose a statutory duty on landlords with respect to the safety of electrical equipment:
- The Consumer Protection Act 1987
- The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
The Consumer Protection Act affects all persons who let property in the course of their business because it defines them as "suppliers", i.e. they are supplying goods to the tenant.
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 applies if you supply in let accommodation "goods" such as electrical equipment upholstered furniture and gas appliances. "Supply" includes hiring or lending goods whether you are acting as a landlord or agent. To ensure that everything in your property is safe, you should get the "goods" checked before you offer the property for rent. Penalties are severe but, far worse, is the possible harm to tenants.
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 state that supplying unsafe electrical goods is an offence. In the event of an unsafe appliance being found in rented accommodation, one of the things Trading Standards would do would be to check that the landlord or agent had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid the supply of that unsafe item. The only way to do that is to have it tested regularly.
A landlord should have a periodic inspection and report carried out at regular intervals. The frequency depends upon the age and use of the property and also may be supplimented by local authority regulations. We would also recommend that the properties are inspected on change of occupancy.
In essence, these regulations impose a duty on landlords to ensure that all electrical equipment supplied by them is safe for use by the tenant
The Consumer Protection Act provides a defence of 'due diligence', i.e. a landlord can defend a contravention of the Act if he can demonstrate that he took reasonable steps to avoid committing the offence.
In summary, a landlord has duties both as a 'supplier of goods' and as the 'person responsible' for an electrical installation. As a 'supplier of goods' he must ensure that goods are checked before the tenant takes them over and as a 'person responsible' he must ensure an adequate system of maintenance.