Introduction to RCDs & Private Rental Properties
There seems to be a lot of debate around the requirements for landlords to fit RCDs to rental properties. This confusion extends further than just landlords themselves, quite a few electricians too seem to be giving conflicting advice.
Unfortunately the regulations surrounding this aren’t very clear which doesn’t help. Recent changes surrounding wiring regulations and upcoming legislation surrounding “mandatory inspections” muddy the waters even further.
Have you ever asked: Do Landlords Need to Fit RCDs in Their Properties?
Read on for the low down…. Not only that, but we also commit to updating this guide so that if upcoming changes alter the advice contained within, we’ll keep it fresh and up to date so you know you are being advised correctly.
The knowledge shared within comes not only from being a local Electrician in Wakefield, but we specialise in the rental sector and particularly inspections & testing. This ensures we know the latest updates in the regulations pertaining to the Private Rental Sector (our work literally depends on it) and can advise accordingly.
Are RCDs a Regulatory Requirement for Rental Properties?
Over the last 20 years or so, the updates to the wiring regulations have pretty much brought the need for RCDs to be provided to just about every circuit. However these changes are not applied retrospectively…
Whilst yes, if the same house were built today then it would require RCD protection, there is no regulatory requirement to update installations which are older to this specification.
Of course it is not quite as black and white as simply “no you don’t have to…..” – hence all the confusion in the first place! Add to that the lack of reliable, up to date (written May 2019) information that is specifically aimed at the rental sector is hard to come by.
Whilst there is no regulatory requirement to update older installations to a more modern specification, the issue often arises around the time of an electrical report:
RCDs in Rental Properties & Landlord Electrical Reports
When an EICR (Electrical Installation Condition Report) is completed at a property, an electrician gives a thorough inspection & test of the installation before writing up a report of it’s condition.
There are a number of inspections completed as part of this report which focus on the whether or not the installation has RCD protection. These include requirements for sockets, cables buried in walls, circuits in bathrooms and now also lighting circuits.
Dependent upon the age of the installation in question, it could have RCDs protecting all the above, just some circuits or indeed, none at all.
EICR coding & what it means for your Landlord Report
When an inspection is completed, the lack of an RCD where now required by newer regulations would be highlighted. MOST of these scenarios would warrant only a C3 – IMPROVEMENT RECOMMENDED issue were an EICR be completed.
An landlord electrical report can still be classed as SATISFACTORY even if the installation has a number of C3 issues. There are however a number of situations where the lack of RCD protection is considered more of a danger and thus would be coded as C2 – POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Where the type of earthing used at the property dictates that an RCD is required to ensure that the power cuts off in the event of a fault. These types of installation would have an “earth spike” and would have “TT” written on the report as the earthing type.
- Where circuits are used to supply “mobile outdoor equipment”. For example, an outdoor socket without RCD protection would fall into this category due to the use with portable outdoor tools, particularly in the case of electric lawnmowers. This could also apply to garage sockets, etc… this is due to the increased risk of fatal shock when outdoors.
- Examples where an installation has been completed more recently, (when RCD protection has been a requirement), however an RCD was never fitted for whatever reason.
My electrician has failed my Landlord Report for no RCD?
In this instance you need to speak to your electrician and ask which particular requirement for RCD protection they are referring to.
From this your electrician will be better able to advise what the required remedial works are. It may be possible that RCDs may only need installing on one or two particular circuits.
Whilst we can advise on the general regulatory matter, we cannot give an answer to this which is unique to your particular installation. This is due to the impossibly large number of variables.
Ultimately if your electrician has completed an electrical installation condition report properly, they are effectively completing a risk assessment of the dangers of your installation against the regulations.
It is not always as simple as ‘does it tick this box’ – certain things comply in certain situations, where omission of certain regulations is permitted if other particular conditions are met. Sounds complicated….? That’s because it is!
Whilst most people’s experience of electrics is just 3 wires to a plug or a socket, an electrician is working to a tight set of regulations that govern everything from:
- The size of cable to be used
- The way in which it is installed
- Types of circuit breaker that ensure it will cut off in the event of a fault
- Which type of clip or support can be used and where
- Whether metal pipework is ‘bonded’ to earth
- and so much more….
My advice on this matter is that if you have done your due diligence and your electrician is both registered and recommended, they should be able to explain to you why your particular installation has ‘failed’. They should also be able to explain the benefits of upgrading and how it can improve safety.
Best Practise Approach for Responsible Landlords
Whilst we have discussed the regulatory requirements for having an RCD in your rental property, I want to finish on a slightly different note:
Whether the regulations place a strict requirement on you or not, you should still seriously consider having RCD protection fitted to the circuits in your rental property.
The 3 main reasons for reasons for this are:
- Quite simply, RCDs save lives. They react to earth faults much faster than any other type of fuse/circuit breaker. This ensures that they cut the supply off before it has had chance to deliver a fatal shock.
- RCDs can help guard against fire. As RCDs are so much more sensitive than either Minature Circuit Breakers (MCBs) or fuses, they can shut the supply off in the event of a small earth fault. Without RCDs, larger earth faults could cause large amounts of current to flow without tripping. It should be noted that RCDs alone do not provide overcurrent protection and thus must always be used with either a fuse or a circuit breaker (RCBOs are different, these are both an RCD and a circuit breaker in one package)
- Having RCD protection on your circuits means that you can complete further electrical installation works at your property in the future without having to worry about upgrading the fuse board at this time.
As a responsible landlord, sometimes it can pay dividends to work towards a “best practice approach”, rather than just trying to achieve the minimum.
Particularly if you are a member of a scheme such as the Wakefield Council Responsible Landlord Scheme, they may place additional requirements on your properties. One of these requirements may well be RCD protection.
Why a Best Practise Approach Should Be Adopted
There have been numerous cases of tenants receiving deadly electrical shocks which could have easily been avoided had a more modern consumer unit with RCD protection being fitted.
One tragic case in 2009 involved a tenant who died after being electrocuted in the bath. A heater wire had rubbed against a pipe and caused it to become live. Whilst this on it’s own would likely not have caused serious injury, the lack of earth bonding on the pipework meant that when the tenant touched the taps whilst taking a bath, she completed the path to earth and received a fatal shock. The Landlords Guild have more information on this sad accident.
Whilst no price can be put on a life, the 82 landlady received a £5000 fine and ordered to pay £1182 in costs. To put that in perspective, RCD equipped consumer units can be fitted for less than a tenth of this.
The property was found to have a 35 year old ELCB (a forerunner of RCDs) that had failed. Had the property had a modern, working RCD fitted, the supply would have cut off within 40ms. In this particular instance the RCD would have likely tripped at the point of the pipe becoming live as opposed to the tenant receiving the shock. Even if the shock did occur, this very low duration helps limit injury sustained greatly, quite simply saving lives.
At the time of writing, the latest tragedy has been a University Professor in rental accommodation who sadly died after receiving an electrical shock from a faulty boiler. Had an RCD been fitted, the shock would have been much less serious and there is every chance that the tenant could have survived. Professional Electrician magazine have covered the coroner’s accidental death verdict here.
Conclusion & Free Resources List
To sum up, we have covered off the regulations and what they do (or in some cases, do not) require. We have outlined the issues when electrical landlord reports are completed and what that may mean for the outcome of your electrical report.
Finally, I have shared our best practise approach, and the reasons why this is the right thing to do, both morally and financially.
I’d like to share a couple of links here below. Think of it as a resource list that will grow as and when the regulations change or we have any new news to share on this matter. Not only that, I will include links to easy checklists you can look over yourself to give a visual indication of the age and condition of your properties electrics.
- Guide To The Latest Landlord Electrical Regulations 2019
- Rental Property Electrical Visual Checklist
So, Do Landlords Need to Fit RCDs?
In our opinion, Yes – whether it is a regulatory requirement or not. In 2019 and beyond, if your property does not have RCD protection in some form or another, then it is very likely to be heading towards, if not well past 30 years old. Adding RCD protection should be seen as planned maintenance for your property.
If you have any questions about landlord’s electrical responsibilities or the regulations surrounding RCDs please get in touch! Equally if you found this information useful, please let me know in the comments below so I can help write further useful content.
James – ElectricBlu Contractors