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Electrical safety testing: EICR and portable appliances

satisfactory stamp over a fuse board for an EICR

Landlords in the England need to ensure that their electrical installations and portable appliances are safe.

This post explains landlords’ obligations regarding the testing of electrical installations, through an EICR or an Electrical Installation Condition Report, and the testing of portable appliances (called PAT testing).

Landlord Guide to Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICR)

What is an EICR?

EICR is an abbreviation of Electrical Installation Condition Report.

The Electrical Safety Standards Regulations 2020 require private landlords in England to arrange for a “qualified and competent person” to inspect and test the electrical installations in rental properties every five years.

The inspection will find out if:

  • any electrical installations are overloaded
  • there are any potential electric shock risks and fire hazards
  • there is any defective electrical work
  • there is a lack of earthing or bonding (which prevent electric shocks).

The EICR states whether the condition of the installations is satisfactory. If not, it will identify any damage, deterioration, defects and/or potentially dangerous conditions. It will also set out detailed recommendations and give an overall assessment of SATISFACTORY or UNSATISFACTORY.

>> Useful Resource: Guide for Landlords: Electrical Safety – official guide for landlords from gov.uk.

What do the classification codes mean?

Inspectors use the following classification codes in the EICR to show where a landlord must undertake remedial work, and .

  • Code 1 (C1): Danger present. Risk of injury. The electrical inspector may make any C1 hazards safe before leaving the property.
  • Code 2 (C2): Potentially dangerous.
  • Further Investigation (FI): Further investigation required without delay.
  • Code 3 (C3): Improvement recommended. Further remedial work is not required for the report to be deemed satisfactory.

If the report identifies C1 or C2 issues, then the landlord will receive an unsatisfactory EICR and must arrange for remedial work. The report will state the installation is unsatisfactory for continued use. If an inspector identifies that further investigative work is required (FI), the landlord must also ensure this is carried out. The landlord must ensure that the C1, C2 and FI issues are rectified within 28 days (or any shorter period if stated in the report).

The C3 classification code, on the other hand, sets out recommendations for remedial work, but these are only recommendations and are not compulsory. If only C3 observations are listed in the EICR report, a satisfactory EICR will be issued.

How often do landlords need to get an EICR done?

Private landlords must obtain an EICR at least every 5 years, unless the previous EICR requires the next to be undertaken before there.

The rules regarding the frequency are set out in Regulation 3 of the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020. A private landlord “ensure that the electrical safety standards are met during any period when the residential premises(2) are occupied under a specified tenancy” and “ensure every electrical installation in the residential premises is inspected and tested at regular intervals by a qualified person”.

Regulation 3 defines “regular intervals” as “intervals of no more than 5 years; or where the most recent report under sub-paragraph (3)(a) requires such inspection and testing to be at intervals of less than 5 years, at the intervals specified in that report”.

What must landlords in England do if they receive an unsatisfactory EICR?

Unsatisfactory EICR on a tenanted property
An unsatisfactory EICR provided to me by a seller of a buy to let that had tenants in situ

In England, if a landlord receives an unsatisfactory EICR, they must ensure that the required remedial work or further investigation is carried out within 28 days, or a shorter period if started in the report.

The landlord will need to obtain written confirmation (Electrical Installation Certificates or Minor Work Certificates) from the electrician who does the rectification work to prove they have been completed. This needs to be be kept with the unsatisfactory report.

If a landlord buys a property from another landlord with sitting tenants and there is not a satisfactory EICR in place, they should make receiving a satisfactory EICR a condition for completion. If they don’t, they will be in breach of the rules if they buy a property with tenants in situ, and without a satisfactory EICR.

How can a landlord arrange an EICR?

Most electricians will be able to carry out an EICR for you. OpenRent offer competitive rates for EICRs and PAT testing. Click here for details on OpenRent’s prices for electrical safety services (affiliate link).

When must landlords provide the EICR to existing tenants ?

Yes. In England, the landlord must provide any existing tenants with a copy of the EICR within 28 days of the testing. This is the case regardless of whether the EICR is satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

Do landlords need to provide an EICR to new tenants?

Yes. Landlords must supply a copy of the most recent EICR to new tenants before they move into the property. The EICR must be satisfactory, otherwise the new tenants cannot move into the property.

Can landlords let a property without a satisfactory EICR ?

No. Rental properties in England must have a satisfactory EICR before they are let to new tenants. This means that if an unsatisfactory EICR is received, the remedial works must be completed before the tenants move into the property. However, an EICR does not need to be done for each new tenancy, so long as the previous EICR has been within the last 5 years (or any earlier period stated in the previous EICR).

Guide to Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) for landlords

portable electric appliances including microwave, blender, kettle, coffee machine
An array of portable appliances

What are portable appliances?

Portable appliances are electrical appliances that can be moved and unplugged from a power supply. In other words, they’re not fixed installations, which wired in as part of a fitted kitchen, and can be theoretically moved.

“Portable” doesn’t mean it can be carried, but just that it’s not wired in, and has a plug. Here are some examples of portable appliances:

  • Kettle
  • Free-standing fridge or freezer
  • Microwave
  • Toaster
  • Electric lawn mower
  • Dishwasher
  • Television
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Washing machine
  • Tumble dryer

Most landlords only supply portable appliances if the property is furnished, or if it’s an HMO. That said, sometimes landlords let unfurnished properties with a free-standing fridge-freezer, dishwasher or washing machine.

>> Related Post: What should landlords supply in unfurnished properties

What does PAT testing mean?

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing) is the term used to describe the process of checking electrical appliances for safety through a series of visual inspections and electronic tests.

Formal PAT testing should be done by a qualified electrician who will carry out a visual inspection of the appliance, its plug and lead. For those appliances with an earth (Class I), they will also test the cable and the appliance itself.

The electrician will usually affix a visible pass or fail sticker on the plug of each appliance detailing the inspection date, next test due and the inspector’s signature.

Do landlords need to carry out PAT testing for single let rental properties?

Unlike fixed electrical installations, there is no explicit legal requirement for landlords to carry out PAT testing of portable appliances in rental properties. That said, if landlords do provide portable electrical appliances in single let properties, they should be safe, and not be liable to cause harm to the tenant.

As the law doesn’t say how landlords can check the safety of their portable appliances, many will choose to have formal PAT testing done by an electrician to be on the safe side. Letting agents also ask for PAT testing to be done, or for the landlords to sign a waiver if they choose not to.

However, unless it’s a licensing requirement from the local authority, formal PAT Testing is not compulsory, just good practice:

We recommend that landlords regularly carry out portable appliance testing (PAT) on any electrical appliance that they provide and then supply tenants with a record of any electrical inspections carried out as good practice.

What visual inspections can landlords do for portable appliances?

If landlords don’t arrange formal PAT testing, they should carry out a visual inspection of each portable appliance once a year, for the following:

  • Is the plug in good condition – is there any tape to join it to the lead and are there signs of overheating?
  • Is the lead in good condition, without fraying, cuts or signs of excessive wear
  • Is the appliance stored somewhere wet or damp?
  • Whilst not “visual”, does the plug smell when turned on?

Do landlords of HMOs need to cary out PAT testing of portable appliances?

The general rule is that PAT Testing is not required in HMOs. However, many local authorities (for instance Redbridge) do make PAT testing a condition of granting an HMO licence or for properties subject to selective licensing.

Due to the higher risk because of the greater wear and tear from multiple occupants in an HMO, it’s wise for HMO landlords to have PAT testing.

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