We have received enquiries from Approved Contractors and landlords concerning responsibility for the safety of electrical equipment in furnished accommodation.

Electrical installations

Landlords should ensure that the electrical installation (fixed wiring, etc) is safe to use. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 requires landlords to ensure the electrical installation is safe when the tenancy begins, and that it is maintained in a safe condition throughout that tenancy. One way of ensuring safety is to undertake a regular visual inspection of the installation, looking for any obvious signs of damage such as damaged cables, socket-outlets showing scorch marks, etc. In addition, the Institution of Electrical Engineers recommends that electrical installations are formally inspected and tested by a competent person on change of occupancy, and at least once every ten years.

Formal inspection and testing should only be undertaken by someone competent to do such work, such as an Approved Contractor. Formal inspection and testing should be more frequent where the risk is found to be greater, for instance where the installation is very old, where damage is regularly found during inspections, etc.

Electrical appliances

Official guidance issued by the Department of Trade and Industry strongly advises estate agents, letting agents, landlords and anyone else who lets furnished accommodation to seek independent advice as to who is responsible for the safety electrical appliances supplied in the course of business. If landlords provide any electrical appliances (cookers, kettles, toasters, washing machines, immersion heaters, etc) as part of the tenancy, the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 require them to ensure the appliances are safe to use when first supplied. Each time the property is re-let, it will be classed as supplying to that tenant for the first time.

Landlords therefore needs to maintain the electrical equipment they supply, taking reasonably practicable precautions to ensure the appliances are safe. A combination of visual inspection, and formal inspection and testing by a competent person such as an NICEIC Approved Contractor, should help achieve this.

As with any electrical equipment, regular visual inspections should be undertaken, to check for signs of:

damage, such as cuts or abrasions to the cable covering;
damage to the plug such as the casing is cracked or the pins are bent;
non-proprietory joints, including taped, in the cable;
the outer covering of the cable not being gripped where it enters the plug or equipment. Look to see if the coloured insulation of the internal wires is showing;
equipment that has been used in conditions where it is not suitable, such as a wet or dusty workplace;
damage to the outer cover of the equipment or obvious loose parts or screws;
overheating (burn marks)

A formal inspection could also include removal of the plug cover to check:

the cord grip is holding the outer part of the cable tightly;
the wires, including the earth wire where fitted, are attached to the correct terminals;
no bare wire is visible other than at the terminals;
the terminal screws are tight;
there is no sign of internal damage, overheating or entry of liquid, dust or dirt.

Most of these checks apply to extension leads and their plugs and sockets.

However, some faults cannot be detected by inspections, particularly lack of continuous earths, and for some equipment the earth connection is essential to safety. Therefore, all earthed equipment and most leads and plugs connected to equipment should also have an occasional combined inspection and test to look for faults. Combined inspection and testing should be carried out where there is reason to suspect the equipment may be faulty, damaged or contaminated, but where this cannot be confirmed by visual inspection. Combined testing should also be carried out after any repair or similar work to the equipment. Suggested intervals are shown below.

User checks
Formal visual inspection
Combined inspection & testing
Battery operated
Extra low voltage: telephones, low voltage desk lights
Double insulated equipment: moved occasionally e.g. fans, lamps
2-4 years
Double insulated equipment: handheld e.g. some floor cleaners
6 months - 1 year
Earthed equipment: e.g. electric kettles, some floor cleaners
6 months - 1 year
1-2 years
Cables and plugs connected to the above.

Extension leads (mains voltage)
6 months - 4 years depending on equipment connected to
1 - 5 years depending on equipment connected to

Keeping records of the results of inspection and testing can be useful, and can prove important should there be an accident.

Extension Leads

The use of extension leads should be avoided where possible. If used, they should be tested as portable appliances. It is recommended that 3-core leads (including a protective earthing conductor) be used.

A standard 13 A 3-pin extension socket-outlet with a 2-core cable should never be used even if the appliance to be used is Class II, as it would not provide protection against electric shock if used at any time with an item of Class I equipment.

Portable Equipment Outdoors

The current requirement for supplies to portable equipment outdoors is that all socket-outlets which may reasonably be expected to supply portable equipment outdoors, must be protected by an RCD with a rated residual operating current not exceeding 30mA to provide supplementary protection against direct contact.

In domestic premises, where no dedicated 30mA RCD protected socket-outlets are provided, the requirement would usually apply to all the socket-outlets located on the ground floor. However, depending on the particular premises, the requirement might also apply to other levels. Socket-outlets installed below kitchen worktops may usually be considered to be unavailable for connection of outdoor portable equipment, and would therefore not be required to be RCD protected. It would be prudent to exclude socket-outlets intended for refrigerators and freezers from circuits which require sensitive RCD protection.