Gas and electrical safety advice for landlords

From renting out entire properties through a letting agency to a spare room we let out to a friend, so many of us now are classed as landlords. But did you know there are legal requirements designed to keep tenants safe that you must meet? Whether it’s a holiday let, a bed and breakfast or a property you rent privately to family, if you fail to understand gas and electrical safety laws you could end up facing a fine - or in worst cases even imprisonment.

Row of houses

Gas safety for landlords

When it comes to gas, there are three areas that you as a landlord are responsible for.

You’ll need to:

  • keep all appliances, chimneys, flues and pipework in good working order
  • perform an annual gas safety check
  • keep a record of these checks for at least two years

Any appliances at your property that use gas should be checked according to the manufacturer’s instructions or checked annually by the Gas Safe registered engineer when the certificate is renewed.

Electrical safety for landlords

Although you’re not obliged to have certificates for all your electrical fittings and appliances, there are three things landlords are legally required to do when it comes to electrical safety.

Firstly, the law states that all fittings and appliances in a rented property (light switches and wiring, kettles and toasters etc.) must be safe when tenants move in - and need to be maintained to keep them that way.

Secondly, every electrical appliance in the rental property should at least have the CE marking, which is the manufacturer’s claim that it meets all the requirements of European law. This is an easy thing to check between rentals. If an appliance doesn’t have this marking, replace it.

Electrician at work

The final rule applies to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO). Not sure if yours is an HMO? Have a look at the list below.

  • Bedsits
  • Shared houses
  • Lodgings
  • Hostels
  • Individual shared self-contained flats/cluster flats
  • Blocks of converted flats
  • Halls of residence (privately operated)
  • Asylum seeker/migrant accommodation
  • Accommodation for workers/employees
  • Refuges

If you rent a property in any of these categories, it’s classed as an HMO under the Housing Act of 2004. This means it will need to be inspected every five years by a registered electrician. The check is also called a ‘periodic inspection and testing’, and the person carrying it out will provide you with an Electrical Condition Report (EICR) which you’ll need to keep.

If your property is not classed as an HMO, you are not legally obliged to do this. But safety experts Electrical Safety First recommend that landlords do get this periodic inspection carried out, at least every five years.

As well as these legal requirements, Electrical Safety First also recommends that you carry out the following basic checks to keep your tenants safe.

Carry out a visual inspection of your property between tenancies

Not sure what to look out for? Start by checking plugs and sockets for burn marks. Switch things on to listen for buzzing or crackling, and have a look at the electrical flexes on appliances to make sure they’re in good order.

Broken plug

Get the property RCD protected

An RCD, or residual current device, can save your life – or the life of your tenant. Designed to protect against electrical shocks and fires, it switches off the current automatically if there’s a fault. These can be fitted to the fuse box, but you’ll need to test them every three months to check they’re still working.

Use only a registered electrician

According to research by Electrical Safety First, a quarter of UK adults do not use registered electricians, while a third have hired an electrician based on a recommendation, without checking their credentials. With electrical fires accounting for over 21,000 house fires each year, getting a professional in is a must in any rented property.

Put safety checks in the rental agreement

Ask your tenants to report any electrical faults or damaged equipment as soon as possible, and put in the rental agreement that you want to perform your own electrical safety check every year.

If you’re in any doubt about your legal requirements and responsibilities when renting out a property you should seek independent advice. For more information visit the UK Government website.