With an endless list of acronyms to memorise, and lettings providers trying to upsell a vast spectrum of pre-tenancy works as ‘essential’ services, it’s often difficult for landlords to keep track of what they need to do to satisfy their compliance obligations. PAT testing, a series of safety checks for the electrical appliances in your property, is one such source of confusion.
Our guide explains everything you need to know about PAT testing as a landlord and why it’s worth getting the appliances inspected in your rental property.
What is PAT testing?
The phrase ‘PAT testing’ is one of many examples of redundant acronym syndrome in the lettings industry. PAT stands for 'portable appliance testing', and it is the process of examining all electrical appliances and equipment to ensure that it is safe for ongoing use. As the name indicates, this form of testing is used to measure the safety of portable appliances such as kettles, microwaves, space heaters, lamps etc. It also covers stationary appliances such as fridges and washing machines (this is somewhat counterintuitive - a fridge is not necessarily the first thing that springs to mind when imagining a ‘portable’ appliance).
Portable appliance testing is similar but distinct from an electrical installation condition report (EICR). An EICR inspection checks the safety of all fixed electrical fittings that are supplied directly by the property’s electricity meter. Both are important processes for ensuring that your tenants are not in any danger of accidents due to electrical hazards (such as electrocution or electrical fires).
The primary purpose of a PAT test for a landlord is to minimise the risk of electrical hazards in a rental property that could lead to injury (0r worse) for a tenant.
What happens during a PAT test?
The test involves a visual inspection of portable appliances and then a more in-depth investigation using specialised PAT testing equipment where necessary. The equipment measures earth continuity (the connection between the earth pin on the plug and the case of the appliance), the insulation resistance of the appliance, and whether or not the lead is wired correctly (lead polarity).
If there is a fault in any of these components then the appliance poses a serious health and safety risk. For instance, the earth pin on the plug provides a path for the electrical current to flow from the case of the appliance to ground in the event of a fault, thereby protecting the user from injury. If the earth pin is compromised on an appliance you have provided, your tenant is at risk of serious harm for which you could be legally liable.
Who can perform a PAT test?
According to the relevant legislation, portable appliance testing can be carried out by anyone deemed competent. This is defined as anyone with relevant knowledge of electrical safety generally and experience and awareness of the correct processes for testing appliance safety. The person does not need to be a qualified electrician, but it is best practice to hire a professional to complete the safety tests.
Specialist equipment is required in order to check the safety of appliances accurately, so checks are best performed by an appropriately qualified electrician with access to the right tools for the job.
Is PAT testing a legal requirement for landlords?
No, there is no specific national legal requirement obliging you to arrange portable appliance testing and you don’t need to provide a record for your renters. If your property is an HMO or subject to selective licensing regulations, it is worth checking with your local authority to confirm if there are any specific requirements related to portable appliance testing as a condition of your property licence.
Currently, the only electrical safety document that landlords have to provide to their tenant is a valid EICR certificate. As we mentioned earlier, this safety inspection is distinct from portable appliance testing (though many providers will offer discounted PAT inspections if they are instructed to attend your property to complete an EICR).
However, you do have a legal obligation to ensure that all electrical appliances provided with your rental property are safe for use. If your renters suffer injury or damage to property because of unsafe electrical equipment provided with the property, you could be held criminally negligent and penalised accordingly.
Why should I arrange a PAT test?
Put simply, it’s the surest way to guarantee that you are compliant with your electrical safety obligations as a landlord, indemnify yourself against risk of penalties for non-compliance, and protect your tenants from harm.
Portable appliance testing will confirm that your appliances are safe for your renters to use, guaranteeing their safety and protecting your any claims for damages as a result of unsafe electrical equipment. It’s a straightforward process and the benefits far outweigh the cost of the tests. We’re sure you want your renters to have the best possible experience during their tenancy, and this is one small measure you can take to ensure that you are providing good quality, safe housing.
How often should I arrange a PAT test?
As a general rule of thumb, the frequency with which you test your appliances according to the likely risk of an item breaking and the speed with which it is likely to deteriorate. Small, highly portable, frequent-use items such as kettles and toasters are far more likely to be damaged during everyday use than a large stationary appliance such as a refrigerator or washing machine.
It is therefore reasonable to complete testing on smaller items every one or two years, while inspecting larger items less frequently unless your tenants report a specific issue. If you have new tenants moving into the property, you should bring the date of the next test forward to verify all the appliances provided with the property are safe before the commencement of the new tenancy.
The price charged by suppliers often varies by the number of appliances tested during the visit, so it makes sense to arrange assessments of larger appliances only where this is necessary instead of paying for superfluous testing.
It’s best practice to keep a log of all your appliances and note the date whenever they are tested for safety. It’s an easy way to keep track of when the next assessment is due and serves a document illustrating your compliance with electrical safety standards in the event of any issues.
How much does PAT testing cost?
The price will vary between supplier, number of appliances tested, and additional services included with testing (e.g if the attending electrician fixes any faults for you), but professional portable appliance testing will cost roughly £50 - £100.
Maintaining a safe rental property is about more than just ticking off a checklist of every compliance document that landlords are required to provide to tenants by law. While it is essential to ensure you have a valid EICR, gas safety certificate, EPC etc, it’s also very important not to neglect broader housing regulations governing the health and safety of private rental housing.
Portable appliance testing is one of many proactive steps you can take to guarantee that your property and its contents are compliant, and while demonstrating to your renters that you maintain strict professional standards as their landlord.