Partners and Suppliers Steve Barnes 08/09/2023

The complete guide to protecting your property from electrical hazards

In their recent article on a landlord’s essential responsibilities, the NRLA’s insurance partner, Total Landlord, highlighted that landlords who don’t understand their responsibilities risk significant penalties and fines for breaking the rules, even if they don’t intend to. Making sure you’re providing a safe home for your tenants and complying with all the legal requirements should of course be your number one priority as a landlord. 

Regulations to improve electrical safety are some of the most recent to be introduced and carry some of the steepest fines. Landlords who fail to conduct an ‘Electrical Installation Condition Report’ (EICR), and any work it recommends, face a fine of up to £30,000. 

In this article, Total Landlord explains the importance of protecting your property from electrical hazards.

This is vital to reducing your risk of having to make an insurance claim, and most importantly for the safety of your tenants. 

What are the electrical safety regulations?

Regulations that require landlords to make sure the electrical installations in their rented properties are safe only came into force quite recently, on 1 June 2020, as part of the Government’s drive to improve safety in the sector. Although of course most landlords were already making sure there were no electrical hazards in their properties, the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, which have applied to all tenancies in England created on or after 1 July 2020 and all existing tenancies from 1 April 2021, make it a legal requirement that the electrics meet certain standards, and landlords must give their tenants proof of this. 

What do the electrical safety regulations mean for landlords

The electrical safety regulations mean that landlords must have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every five years. Landlords must also provide a copy of the electrical safety report to their tenants within 28 days of the inspection and to any new tenant before they occupy the premises, and, if requested, to their local authority within seven days of receiving a request for a copy.

The full list of requirements is set out on the Government’s website

What will the electrical inspection involve?

The electrical safety inspection will investigate:

  • Whether any electrical installations are overloaded
  • Whether there are any potential electric shock risks and fire hazards
  • Whether there is any defective electrical work
  • Whether there is a lack of earthing or bonding (two ways of preventing electrical shocks that are built into electrical installations)

What are the top five risks associated with not completing an EICR?

As a landlord you are responsible for providing a safe home for your tenants. If anyone hurts themselves due to dangerous electrics and you can’t provide evidence stating that you completed an EICR, you could be prosecuted. But that’s not the only reason for completing an EICR - here are the five top risks.

  1. Electrical hazards: An EICR can identify potential electrical hazards in your property, such as worn or damaged wiring, inadequate earthing, and overloading. These hazards can pose a serious risk to the safety of your tenants.
  2. Fire risk: An EICR can identify electrical malfunctions that could lead to a fire, such as overloading, worn or damaged wiring, and faulty electrical equipment.
  3. Liability risk: If a tenant is injured as a result of an electrical hazard in your property, you could be held liable for damages. Not completing an EICR could increase your risk of liability.
  4. Insurance coverage risk: If an electrical fire occurs in your rental property and you have not completed an EICR, your insurance provider may refuse to pay out.
  5. Costly repairs: An EICR can identify potential issues before they become more serious and expensive to repair. By fixing these issues early, you can avoid costly repairs in the future and minimise the risk of damage to your property.

What can landlords do to reduce the risks of electrical hazards?

The electrical safety inspection will find out if any of the hazards mentioned above are present, thereby reducing the risks. But landlords should take responsibility for proactively addressing risks and hazards themselves.

The five products that cause the most electrical fires in UK homes are:

  • Electric cooking appliances (such as cookers and microwaves, but not deep fat fryers)
  • Laundry appliances (washing machines and tumble dryers)
  • Electrical lighting
  • Portable heaters
  • TVs

According to Electrical Safety First, in total these products cause almost 12,000 fires and 3,000 injuries each year. Cooking appliances in particular, according to government statistics, are responsible for the largest number of accidental reported fires caused by electricity in the home.

It’s really important to make sure you carry out all the electrical checks that are required by law and log that you have done so – if there was a fire and it was found to have been caused by negligence, you would be prosecuted and your insurance would be invalidated. But as a landlord you really need to be going above and beyond when it comes to electrical safety. Nine out of 10 electrical fires are caused by electrical products compared to one out of 10 which are caused by faults in installations or people not using installations correctly. By taking simple precautions with your electrical appliances, having the electrics in your rental property checked regularly, and emphasising electrical safety to your tenants, you can reduce the risk of an electrical fire.


Steve Barnes, Head of Broking at Total Landlord

Steps landlords can take to avoid electrical hazards

Fortunately, there are a number of practical steps landlords can take to avoid electrical hazards in their rental properties.

  • Carry out portable appliance testing (PAT): Since the EICR regulations only cover the fixed electrical installations (things like light fittings, fuse boxes and plug sockets), and not electrical appliances (including large appliances like refrigerators, televisions and washing machines), it’s good practice for landlords to regularly carry out PAT testing on any electrical appliances they provide, and then supply their tenants with a record of any electrical inspections carried out. It’s also a good idea for landlords to make tenants aware that they are responsible for making sure their own electrical appliances are safe, and signposting them to guidance on portable appliance testing (PAT). 
  • Register electrical appliances with a product registration scheme: Both tenants and landlords can register their own electrical appliances with a product registration scheme, which makes it easy for the manufacturer to get in touch if it turns out that the item is somehow faulty or dangerous.  
  • Make sure electrical riser cupboards aren’t used to store anything: Riser cupboards are intended to facilitate access to services (gas, electric), and as such they should remain free from obstruction at all times. Storage of any materials presents a fire risk - if there was a spark it could ignite and cause fire to spread.
  • Don’t overload electrical adaptors: Make sure your tenants know not to plug too many appliances into one socket, especially if they have a high electrical current rating. This would apply to kettles, irons and heaters. Visit Electrical Safety First to check your sockets are safe and use their ‘socket overload calculator’ to check if your tenants are exceeding the maximum load.
  • Keep portable heaters away from flammable materials: If you let your tenants use portable heaters make sure they know to keep them away from flammable materials such as curtains and furniture, and never be used to dry clothes.
  • Take care with cooking appliances in the kitchen: Misuse of electrical cooking appliances is a major cause of accidental electrical fires, so make sure you remind tenants not to let leads from appliances such as toasters and kettles trail across the cooker, and not to let fat and grease build up on or in the cooker or the grill pan, where it can catch fire.
  • Check cables for damage and wear and tear: Before plugging in appliances, check for damage and that the plug is fastened securely to the cable. Make sure tenants know not to use appliances unless they and their cables are in good condition.
  • Don’t ignore flickering lights: Unplug all portable electrical items to find out if there’s a fault with the lighting circuit or whether the source of the problem is a faulty appliance or system overload. 
  • Check sockets regularly: If you see any burn marks or they feel hot, call in a registered electrician to check if they need repairing or replacing.
  • Be vigilant if you find a fuse tripping or you are replacing light bulbs more often: This could be a sign that there is an electrical fault. Check that you’re using bulbs of the correct wattage and if the problem persists call an electrician.
  • Be vigilant in the bathroom and remember that water and electricity do not mix: The bathroom can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the house because water carries electricity so efficiently. Sockets are not allowed in bathrooms or shower rooms (other than shaver-supply units) unless they can be fitted at least three metres from the bath or shower. Make sure tenants know never to bring mains-powered portable appliances such as hairdryers into a bathroom.
  • Take care with electrical safety outdoors: Use a Residual Current Device (RCD) with all outdoor electrical equipment and switch off and unplug electrical items before cleaning or adjusting them. Make sure tenants know to store equipment in a dry place and never use it in wet conditions.
  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm on each floor of your property: You are required by law to do this. If a fire starts in your rental property, the alarm will provide an early warning to tenants. For the latest on smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations read Total Landlord’s guide.
  • Take out landlord insurance: This is an important step in protecting your investment and ensuring the safety of your tenants. Landlord insurance will help cover you from financial losses connected with your rental property. 
  • Maintain channels of communication with your tenants: Share these tips with your tenants, perhaps in a welcome pack, and be sure to establish a good relationship.

We would always emphasise the importance of good communication with your tenants – share with them the tips we’ve provided here to help them take good care of your property and reduce the risks of electrical hazards. But sometimes accidents do happen, which is why it’s also vital to have landlord insurance. Then, if there is a fire in your property as a result of an electrical hazard caused by your tenant’s actions, even if unintentional, and your tenant is injured, you would be covered, provided you have both buildings and liability cover. It’s vital to read the terms and conditions and policy wording of any policy you take out.

Steve Barnes, Head of Broking, Total Landlord

For more information, NAPIT’s article for the NRLA on electrical safety inspections provides detailed guidance on electrical safety regulations and answers some of the frequently asked questions on Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICRs). You can also read Total Landlord’s guide to why you need a landlord electrical safety certificate

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes Head of Broking, Total Landlord

Steve Barnes has worked with landlords and leading landlord associations for over 25 years and oversees the HFIS group as Head of Broking for Total Landlord. Our award winning landlord insurance offering has been providing comprehensive cover for landlords since 1996. Whether you have a single property or a portfolio, Total Landlord has a property insurance policy that will give you value for money and the required protection to support your business requirements. Our dedicated claims team of expert advisers deal with more than 82% of claims in-house and provide customers with a sole point of contact should the worst happen. Named 'Best Landlord Insurance Provider' five times at the Insurance Choice Awards and with a rating of 4.8 out of five on Smart Money People, you can rest assured that you are in safe hands.

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