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What's The Difference Between EICR and PAT?

Electrical Safety for rental properties

When it comes to electrical safety in rental properties, both landlords and tenants have an important part to play.

From legally required tests to visual checks, knowing how to ensure electrical wiring and appliances are operating safely will minimise the risk of dangerous fires and accidents. Which in turn will bolster a landlord’s reputation and give peace of mind to tenants.

Here we’ll outline all you need to know about Electrical Inspection Condition Reports and PAT testing and explain who’s responsible for what.

What’s the difference between an EICR and a PAT test?

An EICR is a report produced after an electrical inspection is carried out at a property by a qualified professional. It’s an assessment of the property’s fixed wiring and is one of a landlord’s many legal obligations.

A PAT test assesses the safety and function of appliances within the property, such as fridges and kettles. PAT testing is not legally required in England but is strongly recommended.

Understanding the importance of Electrical Inspection Condition Reports

Renting out a property comes with many responsibilities. The requirement to have an EICR forms part of the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020: a very long name for a piece of legislation which ensures the highest levels of electrical safety for tenants.

Within this, private landlords must make sure every electrical installation in their rental properties is inspected and tested. This must take place at intervals of no more than five years by a ‘qualified and competent person’. These can be found via schemes set up by the electrical safety industry, such as the Electrical Safety Roundtable and the Registered Competent Person: Electrical.

Only applicable in England, the regulations were introduced in 2020 and now apply to all relevant tenancies. Each one must come with evidence that the property meets the national standards for electrical safety.

What happens during an electrical safety inspection?

The person carrying out the inspection will be checking the ‘fixed’ electrical components of the property. This includes the wiring, plug sockets, light fittings and fuse boxes, as well as any permanently connected appliances such as showers and extractor fans.

The electrician will also take the time to check if:

  • any electrical installations are overloaded

  • if there are any potential electric shock risks or fire hazards

  • if there’s any defective electrical work

  • if any earthing or bonding is lacking, both of which are methods of preventing electric shocks

The regulations don’t cover unfixed electrical appliances such as cookers and TVs. Read all about PAT testing below to find out more about these.

Once the inspection is complete, there’s no requirement for a specific landlord electrical certificate but they will issue a report detailing:

  • the results of the inspection and testing, whether satisfactory or unsatisfactory

  • a list of observations highlighting any necessary remedial work or further investigation

  • the date the next inspection and test is due by

What do landlords have to do after an electrical inspection?

Once the inspection has been carried out, to guarantee compliance under the regulations, landlords must:

  • get a report (the EICR) detailing the date and results of the inspection, plus the date of the next one

  • supply a copy of that report to each existing tenant within 28 days of the inspection

  • supply a copy to the local housing authority within seven days of receiving a request from them

  • retain a copy until the next inspection and pass the report onto the person carrying it out

  • supply a copy to any new tenants 

  • complete any remedial or investigative work requested within the report within 28 days or less, depending on the findings

  • supply written confirmation of the completion of these works from the electrician to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days

If remedial work isn’t carried out within 28 days, local authorities can fine landlords up to £30,000 for being in breach of their duty.

The government’s aim here is to make sure ‘all landlords now have to do what good landlords already do: make sure the electrical installations in their rented properties are safe.’ 

Understanding PAT testing

PAT, or portable appliance testing, is a way to check that small electrical items are working correctly and, therefore, safely.

Unlike EICRs, regular PAT testing is not a legal requirement in England. However, where a landlord provides an electrical appliance as a part of a tenancy, the law expects them to be safely maintained so they don’t harm tenants. Failure to do so can lead to being sued for negligence.

The sticking point is that the law doesn’t stipulate how landlords should do this. In the absence of specific legislation, step forward common sense and best practice.

What is a portable appliance?

Portable appliances are generally classed as those with a plug and which can be moved. These include:

  • microwaves and cookers

  • fridges and freezers

  • washing machines and dishwashers

  • toasters, kettles and coffee machines

  • TVs, digital receivers and stereos

  • lamps

  • vacuum cleaners

  • heated towel rails 

  • extension leads

How to carry out a PAT test

The first step is to carry out a regular visual inspection of all appliances which will highlight any obvious issues. For landlords, they can also encourage tenants to do this more often and alert them to any immediate concerns.

Potential problems to look out for include:

  • fraying or heavy scuffing to the power cable

  • damage to the plug such as bent pins

  • loose parts or screws

  • tape used to join leads together

  • visible wires where the lead joins the plug

  • signs of overheating such as scorch marks or staining

  • cables trapped and therefore damaged under furniture

  • unsuitable equipment being used in wet environments, e.g. bathrooms

Landlords can then provide tenants with a report of their findings. Note that tenants are responsible for checking any of their own electrical appliances are safe.

If you’re both a landlord and a competent electrician, you can complete a thorough PAT test yourself.

For most however, ultimate peace of mind only comes from arranging a professional PAT test.

What does a professional PAT test involve?

A DIY visual inspection has its merits but some faults can only be identified via a test from a professional electrician. And remedial work can obviously only be made by someone suitably qualified.

Professional PAT testing involves an electrical engineer visiting the property to visually inspect and test all appliances. They’ll use a sticker system to indicate whether each item has passed or failed, along with the date of the next recommended inspection.

You’ll also receive a certificate for your records to prove you’re taking the electrical safety of your property seriously. Something which will be welcomed by all tenants, both current and future.

Discover more advice about being a responsible landlord on MakeUrMove’s property blog.

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