Understanding the New Electrical Safety Regulations

A new measure added to The Repairing Standard comes into force on 1 March 2024 compelling Scotland’s private landlords to ensure the existing electrical installation within their rental properties has one or more residual current devices (RCDs) in its consumer unit to reduce the risk of electrocution and fire.

Additionally, landlords should advise tenants to check that each RCD works by pressing the integral test button at regular intervals.

Around two-thirds of all house fires in Scotland are caused by electrical faults, so this crucial piece of legislation is a welcome step toward keeping tenants safe.

It’s one of a number of new measures that landlords have to comply with, which include lead pipe removal, enhancements to kitchen facilities, heating systems and access provisions. You can read about changes to the regulations surrounding lead water pipes here.

Why are RCDs so important?

An RCD is a safety device that shuts off electricity automatically if there is a fault, thereby protecting against the risks of electrocution. It kicks in if you were to cut through the cable when mowing the lawn or if a faulty appliance overheated causing electric current to flow to earth.

In safety terms, they’re a step beyond normal fuses and circuit-breakers and even provide some protection against electrical fires.

Their introduction sits alongside a pre-existing duty of landlords to ensure all electrical installations in a private rented property are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order. Private rental properties already require electrical safety inspections to be carried out by a qualified electrician at least once every five years.

We’re lobbying the Scottish Government for more details

Clan Gordon has been lobbying the Government for clarification on the details around these changes to help landlords and property managers better understand the responsibilities in order to stay compliant.

When the Scottish Government introduced the Repairing Standard Statutory Guidance in March 2023, the requirement around RCDs was vague as there was no guidance on which circuits a landlord should ensure have RCD protection. The guidance did advise landlords to engage help from a qualified electrician to navigate any uncertainty, however the regulatory bodies for electricians had not been consulted on this.

Clan Gordon Managing Director Jonathan Gordon FRICS MARLA said: “Obviously, there is nothing more important than the safety of tenants and, as such, this clarification is vital.

“We lobbied the Scottish Government policy unit on repairing standards throughout last year and they have finally issued new Statutory Guidance specifying that, as a minimum, socket circuits should be protected by RCD. However, previous guidance stated just one RCD per premises was required. For some properties they may have more than one socket circuit, which means these will all need to be rechecked to ensure compliance.

“There is an absence of guidance on RCDs on lighting circuits, which potentially also pose a risk of electrocution. We are continuing to lobby the Scottish Government for clarity on these key aspects of the regulation.”

While the new guidance helps make the requirement much clearer, with just a few weeks' notice before the legislation comes into force it will be impossible for every landlord to achieve this before the 1 March 2024 deadline.

At Clan Gordon we will be keeping all our landlords updated on their compliance requirements in relation to the changes in this guidance as soon as we know more.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a supportive letting agent prepared to advocate on your behalf to ensure compliance, schedule a call with one of our experts.