Electrical Safety Responsibilities for Commercial Property Landlords
Being a commercial property landlord can be financially rewarding; however, sometimes it can seem like there is a never-ending list of laws and responsibilities to which you must adhere. Your property should always be a safe environment for your tenants. So, familiarising yourself with commercial landlord obligations reduces the risk of Senior Managers, Directors and Officers being held accountable for lax Health & Safety and inadequate building maintenance which can protect you from significant financial risk by not complying with regulations.
It is a legal requirement for all landlords to comply with electrical safety standards when letting out a commercial or residential property. Read on to find out what the law and tenants expect from you as a commercial property owner/landlord when it comes to electrical safety.
Electrical Laws and Regulations
Electricity can kill or severely harm people through electric shocks, burns, fires and explosions which can be a direct result of gradual deterioration of the electrical installation and equipment, damage to switches, sockets and other appliances, misuse of the facility and equipment, inadequate maintenance, and vandalism. According to The Landlord and Tenant Act (1985), as a landlord, you have a legal duty to ensure the property that you are letting out, and any electrical equipment provided, is safe – both before a tenancy begins and throughout its duration.
There is no legal requirement for regular electrical safety inspections in residential properties at present. According to the Electrical Safety Council, a Landlord should inspect commercial properties every five years, or on a change of tenancy by a registered electrical safety engineer. This periodic inspection is similar to the Electrical Safety Tests that residential property landlords carry out for Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO). It should come as no surprise to learn the recommendation that only professional and competent individuals should carry out work on electrical systems and contractors should provide their risk assessment and method statement as well as show evidence of their insurance before they begin any work.
During each visit, landlords should receive certificates certifying that the property is electrically safe. You must keep each of these certificates to prove due diligence in case of an accident. However, there is no legal requirement to provide these certificates to the tenant. Nonetheless, landlords should issue all instruction manuals to tenants to cover themselves and that they have done all they can to show that ensure they use electrical appliances correctly and adequately. By law, landlords must ensure that any apparatus provided to their tenants in commercial lettings has at least the CE marking, which is the manufacturer’s claim that it meets all the requirements of European legislation. The existing legislation could potentially change after Brexit, when the UK is no longer part of the European Union.
If the tenant discovers any electrical faults, the lease should explicitly set out your contact details so they can report notice of these issues. If either you or the tenant wish to carry out a new electrical installation, an electrical installation certificate (EIC) is required for any new installations undertaken.
Although it may seem a laborious process, electrical inspections and associated improvements also benefit you as a landlord as it adds material improvement to your property which helps prevent electrical fires that could cause costly and significant damage.
The 2016 JCB & ECA Survey shows no fatalities in the survey respondents in recent years. The responses showed an industry Accident Industry Rate of 216.38 per 100,000 operatives, which compares to the 2001 figure of 1600/100,000. Of the accidents that occurred in 2016, the most prevalent type of serious injury is from falls.
As I alluded to in the introduction, the point remains that health and safety failures that involve electrical contractors can be fatal. Any electrical device used on a wiring circuit can, under certain conditions, transmit a deadly current. Vivek Singh, Commissioning Engineer at General Electric, clarifies a little-known fact when he wrote that “while it would seem that a shock of 10,000 volts would be more deadly than 100 volts. However, this is not so! Individuals have been electrocuted by appliances using ordinary house currents of 110 volts and by electrical apparatus in industry using as little as 42 volts direct current. The real measure of shock’s intensity lies in the amount of current (amperes) forced through the body, and not the voltage”.
The potential damage makes any level of incident reporting in the electrical industry unacceptable, and thus we must take preventative steps seriously.
Research from the Department for Communities and Local Government estimates that each year there are around 20,000 accidental electrical fires, causing approximately 50 deaths and 3,500 injuries.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005) imposes various duties on the “responsible person” with regards to fire safety in commercial properties. The “Responsible Person” can be defined as the employer concerning a workplace and either the person who has control of the premises or the owner where the premises is not a workplace, such as an unmanned storage warehouse.
Duties on commercial property landlords under the Order include taking general fire precautions to ensure that renters and people who use commercially-rented premises are safe in the event of a fire. Landlords should carry out a risk assessment and keeping this under review, and ensuring that you adequately maintain the premises, any fire safety equipment and emergency routes and exits and keep things in working order. However, as a landlord, you have to include fire safety in any risk assessments you carry out on the property and supply fire safety equipment. A person found guilty of non-compliance with the Order is liable to a fine and, in the most severe cases, imprisonment in the event of Crown Court proceedings.
Duties on commercial property landlords under the Order include taking general fire precautions to ensure that tenants who use commercially-rented premises are safe in the event of a fire. Landlords should carry out a risk assessment and keeping this under review, and ensuring that you adequately maintain the premises, any fire safety equipment and emergency routes and exits and keep things in working order. However, as a landlord, you have to include fire safety in any risk assessments you carry out on the property and supply fire safety equipment. A person found guilty of non-compliance with the Order is liable to a fine and, in the most severe cases, imprisonment in the event of Crown Court proceedings.
The common theme emerging for most of the areas above is ‘control’. The party in control will usually be the party with responsibility. Control, however, can often be difficult to determine. It is therefore important for landlords to ensure that their leases set out who has control about each issue and who is responsible for what in terms of Health and Safety. Establishing who is in control is the only way for commercial property landlords to ensure they do not become liable for Health and Safety issues which they may believe were the tenant’s responsibility.
Health and safety of a property is a major priority for any landlord and tenant. By meeting responsibilities and obligations not only do you protect yourself from charges of negligence and insurance claims, but you also help your tenants’ businesses thrive whilst gaining the reputation as a reputable and responsible landlord at the same time.