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What can tenants do about electrical problems in their rented property?

cheery electricianHere is a question to the blog clinic on electrical problems from Derek (not his real name) who is a tenant

I have been looking on the web for an answer to my problem, and to be honest I’m quite desperate.

My girlfriend and I moved into a house together just over a month ago, our electrics trip out on almost a daily basis, which is a real nuisance.

We have contacted out agent who keeps sending out the same handyman, he is very pleasant but doesn’t seem to know what he is doing. He flicks a few switches, unscrews some sockets, fits them back and then leaves. We’re not even sure if he’s a qualified electrician.

A friend of mine who is an electrician told me to check the fuseboard and appliances for stickers to see when they were last tested, I have checked and there are none. I asked the agent if they have been tested and their reply was “it’s not a legal requirement”.

Furthermore, they have now told us that one of our own appliances must be causing the problem because they have never had a problem with the electrics before.

We are sure that the agent is in the wrong here, but we want to know whether there is any to prove it. Please help.

Electrical wiring – landlords obligations

The agent is right in a way – there is no legal requirement to get the electrical wiring tested regularly, not like there is for gas for example.

However under the landlords repairing obligations landlords are obliged to keep the electrical wiring in proper repair.

You may be interested in this summary of landlords obligations regarding electricity which I did a while ago but which is still valid.


Probably the best way to sort the problem would be to get your own report done.

For example is this something your electrician friend could do?  Or maybe he could recommend someone.  If a report is provided to the agents by a qualified electrician saying that the system is defective they will have to take notice.

Saying that it is your equipment causing the problem is an obvious ‘fobbing off’ exercise but that does not mean it is necessarily wrong.  So maybe keep a note of what electrical items are on (and in particular) have just been switched on, when the system tripes out.

For example if it always trips out when you switch on the kettle you may have found your culprit. However I assume that if this was the case you would already have spotted it.

Qualified electricians

Finally, it is against the law for non qualified electricians to carry out work.

So I think you are entitled to make enquiries about the qualifications of the useless electrician who keeps being sent round to do repairs.

(See also the comments area below and >> click here to read our terms of use and comments policy)

Important note. If you are reading an old post, remember that the law may have changed since it was written.

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7 Responses to What can tenants do about electrical problems in their rented property?

  1. It not just items that are turned on, any item that is plugged in may be the reason for a trip. If you go away for any reason, unplug EVERYTHING and see if it trips while you are away.

    Also have you put up any picture hooks? If so you may have hit a cable.

    Assuming it only started to give problem when you move it, it is most likely something that change with you moving in, e.g. your appliances or a picture hook.

    However the preceding tenant may have had problem and not reported it, maybe because it started to go wrong when they put in a picture hook.

    I had this problem in our home, we even know the circuit that the problem was on, we never found out what it was, but fixed it be replacing the circuit. (That’s way I like each circuit on its own RCBO, you at least know the circuit with the problem)

    An full test of the system MAY find the problem, but often a system can test OK but still have a intermitted fault.

  2. Sorry I should also have said, if two appliances have a small fault, the system may only trip when both of them are in use! Also some RCD trips with smaller faults then others, so just because a combination of appliances did not trip the RCD in one property, does not mean they will in anther property.

    Hence it is very hard to convince anyone that understand electrical systems that it is not your appliances.

  3. Can you clarify why you state it is illegal for non qualified electricians to conduct the work? It used to be that works in Kitchens & Bathrooms needed reporting to the local authority and certified – but most qualified electricians could self certify and send a copy of the certificate to the council to notify them. However, the requirements have recently been relaxed and works in most parts of k & b (excluding adjacent to water) are no longer notify able.

  4. I thought new building regs came in a few years ago which provided for all electrical work to be done by a qualified electrician.

    However I could be wrong. I am not a surveyor and am not really up on the building regs stuff.

    Does anyone know?

  5. Whereas the gas regs are fairly straight forward the electrical regs under Part P are slightly more complicated. I have not looked at this in detail for some time but there is a differentce in work that is an installation or replacement of a consumer unit or new ring main as opposed to a “simple” repair eg refixing a cable to an existing socket. The former requires a person who is registered and qualified whereas the latter does not. Installation of an external security light must be done by a competent person. I beleive that some work may be done by a non-qualified person but must then be checked by a qualified person.

    Amended regs are due to come into force in October of this year.

    This is only a brief comment and not meant as a factual statement of law



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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