There is a lot of confusion and contradictory information about the requirements for the electrical testing of fixed electrical wiring. Many commercial properties already have a suitable maintenance regime that includes periodic testing of the electrical systems. However what many people don’t realise is that rental properties should also have a similar regime in place.
This article paraphrases sections of the Memorandum of Guidance on the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 published by the Health and Safety Executive. This is the only statutory legal document that governs electrical systems as the BS7671 Wiring Regulations are not legally binding.
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR) regulation 3, pt1, states that:
1. Except where otherwise expressly provided in these Regulations, it shall be the duty of every-
a) Employer and self-employed person to comply with the provisions of these Regulations in so far as they relate to matters which are within his control.
And Regulation 4, pt 2, states that employers and self-employed persons have a duty of care to ensure that:
As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger.
What this means is that to protect people at work from danger associated with electrical systems an acceptable maintenance regime should be in place. This regime should be based on a risk assessment of the electrical system and its environment and be drawn up by an experienced and competent person.
It is commonly accepted that a key part of this maintenance should be regular testing and inspection of the electrical system by a competent electrical contractor to the current BS7671 Wiring Regulations. This should be followed by the completion of remedial works for observations affecting electrical safety within a suitable time frame (often stated as 45 days although this is not specifically stated in the EAWR or BS7671).
The Institute of Electrical Engineering produces Guidance Note 3: Inspection and Testing which provides help on intervals for testing and inspection based on use and standardised risks. These intervals are not proscribed and should be adjusted for the specific circumstances of the electrical system.
The EAWR covers any person at their place of work and the duty of the employer depends on the amount of control they have over the electrical systems, i.e. how present they are at the property. For example an on-site facilities management team would have a greater expectation of keeping electrical systems safe than a landlord would for a domestic rental property.
It is often stated (usually by landlords) that domestic rental accommodation does not come under the EAWR as it isn’t a place of work but someone’s home. This is technically true until anyone attends the property to perform work, be they a tradesman, letting agent, council officer or the landlord themselves. If something was to happen to someone working in the rental property because of an electrical fault the landlord would be personally responsible for failing to ensure the place of work was adequately maintained.
Fortunately many insurance companies and letting agents now require landlords to have a suitable maintenance regime for their rental properties and won’t insure or let the properties without an Electrical Installation Certificate or Electrical Installation Condition Report.